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The Common Vision 
of the 
World's Religions 


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I I I I I 

FoRqonEiN TRUih 

ThE CoiviivioN VisioN of iUe 
WoRld's REliqioNs 


mm HarperSanFrancisco 

A Division of HaTperCoWinsPublishers 

Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to reprint the fol- 
lowing material: 

Excerpts on pages 94-95 from Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah. 

Copyright © 1967 by Idries Shah. Reprinted by permission of 

Idries Shah and the publishers, Jonathan Cape Ltd., London, 

England, and E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 
Excerpts on pages 33 and 145 from "Burnt Norton" and "East Coker" 

from Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot. Reprinted by permission of Harcourt 

Brace Jovanovich, Inc. 
Excerpt on pages 43-46 from The Monastery of Jade Mountain by Peter 

Goullart. Reprinted by permission of John Murray Ltd., London, 


FORGorTEN TRUTH: The Common Vision of the World's Religions. Copy- 
right © 1976 by Huston Smith. Preface copyright © 1992 by Huston 
Smith. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. 
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner what- 
soever without written permission except in the case of brief quota- 
tions embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address 
HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022. 

FIRST HarperCollins paperback edition published in 1992 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Smith, Huston 
Forgotten truth. 
Includes Index 

1. Religion — Philosophy I. Title 
BL51.S572 1985 200'. 1 

ISBN 0-06-250787-7 92-53925 

05 RRD H 20 19 18 17 16 


Preface v 

1. The Way Things Are 1 

2. Symbolism of Space: The Three-Dimensional 

Cross 19 

3. The Levels of Reality 34 

4. The Levels of Selfhood 60 

5. The Place of Science 96 

6. Hope, Yes; Progress, No 118 

7. Epilogue 146 
Appendix: The Psychedelic Evidence 155 
Index 174 

For Eleanor Kendra 

Eleanor: Variant of Helene (Greek), goddess of 
light; from helene, "the bright one." 

Kendra: Ken. Scottish, to know; to have 
perception or understanding. 

Kendra. Sanskrit 

cognate to the Greek K6VTP0V Center. 

Modern society is intensely secular; even those who 
regret this admit it. The irony is that, after excluding 
the mystical tradition from our cultural mainstream 
and claiming to find it irrelevant to our concerns, so 
many of us feel empty without it. 

DAVID MAYBURY-LEWis, Millennium 

PreFace to jUe 1992 EdiiioN 

People have a profound need to believe that the truth they 
perceive is rooted in the unchanging depths of the universe; for 
were it not, could the truth be really important? Yet how can we 
so believe when others see truth differently? Archaic peoples, 
wrapped like cocoons in their tribal beliefs, did not face this 
dilemma. Even civilizations on the whole have been spared 
it, for until recently they were largely self-contained. It is we — 
we moderns, we worldly wise — who experience the problem 

This book addresses that problem. Twenty years before it was 
published in 1976, 1 wrote The World's Religions (originally titled 
The Religions of Man), which presented the major traditions in 
their individuality and variety. It took me two decades to see 
how they converge. The outlooks of individual men and women 
(the militant atheist, the pious believer, the cagey skeptic J are 
too varied to classify, but when they gather in collectivities — the 
outlooks of tribes, societies, civilizations, and at deepest level 
the world's enduring religions — a pattern emerges. One finds a 
remarkable unity underlying the surface differences. When we 
look at human bodies we normally notice their external fea- 
tures, which differ markedly. Meanwhile the spines that support 
this variety are structurally much alike. It is the same with col- 
lective outlooks. Outwardly they too differ, but inwardly it is as 
if an "invisible geometry" has everywhere been working to 
shape them to a single truth. 



The only notable exception is ourselves; our modern Western 
outlook has differed in its very soul from what might otherwise 
be called "the human unanimity." But there is an explanation 
for this, namely, modern science and its misreading. If the cause 
were science itself, our deviation might be taken as a break- 
through: a new departure for humankind, the dawning of a new 
day after a long night of ignorance and superstition. But since 
the cause has been a misreading of science, our case is an aber- 
ration. If we correct it we can rejoin the human race. 

The time is ripe for that correction — seeing this is what 
prompts the new Preface to this book. Our mistake was expect- 
ing science to provide us with a world view, when we now see 
that it shows us only half the world — its physical, calculable, 
testable, significantly controllable, half And even that half is 
now unpicturable; it can't be visualized (see pages 103-109 in 
the text). So science no longer presents us with a model for even 
half of the world. For two thousand years, Europeans followed 
Aristotle in picturing the earth as surrounded by sentient, crys- 
talline spheres, a model which modern science displaced with 
its clockwork universe. Postmodern science gives us not another 
model of the universe, but no model at all. "Don't ask how na- 
ture can be the way it is," Richard Feynman told his students to- 
wards the close of his life, "for that question leads down a sink- 
hole from which no scientist has emerged alive. Nobody has any 
idea how nature can be the way it is." 

So scientific triumphalism, which came close to being mod- 
ernity's Zeitgeist, is over, for two reasons. One, we realize that 
powerful as science is in certain domains, there are other do- 
mains its empirical method can't track (see pages 14-16 below). 
Two, the things science can work with no longer converge in a 
model that makes sense even of nature. 

This absence of a model for the world is the deepest defini- 
tion of postmodernism and the confusion of our times. The two 
come close to being the sajne thing. A recent review of eight 
books, all carrying the word "postmodern" in their titles, throws 
in the towel, concluding that no one knows what that word 

PREFACE / vii 

means anymore. That's true if we stay with the pundits, but un- 
derlying their definitions is a common denominator that is 
quite serviceable. Ask yourself if you know what's going on. If 
your answer is no, you're postmodern. "Anyone who isn't con- 
fused today," Simone Weil reports, "simply isn't thinking straight." 

If people didn't need models of reality and the life-serving 
orientation and confidence they provide, there would be no 
problem; but history suggests that we do need them. There have 
been times when societies were triumphant and became true 
cultures, when people, through their values and beliefs, knew 
who they were and were at one with themselves. The Iliad, the 
Aeneid, The Divine Comedy, Henry and War and Peace celebrate, 
such times. Even in bad times there has usually been a con- 
sensus of sorts; symbols had accepted meaning and significance, 
providing bastions where people could rally, console and enter- 
tain themselves, and attack agreed-upon evils. But in our post- 
modern Western world, as Walker Percy points out, "something 
has gone wrong, and gone wrong in a sense far more radical 
than, say, the evils of industrial England which engaged Dickens. 
It did not take a diag^nostician to locate the evils of the sweat- 
shops of the nineteenth-century Midlands. But now it seems 
that whatever has gone wrong strikes to the heart and core of 
meaning itself, the very ways [in which] people see and under- 
stand themselves." What is called into question now is the very 
enterprise of human life. Instead of deploring social evils from 
a posture of consensus, it is now the consensus itself th^ is 
called into question. Rebecca West made the point differently 
while retaining the point itself. Asked to name the mood of this 
latter twentieth century, she said, "a desperate search for a 

That "the human unanimity" — how things pretty much looked 
to peoples everywhere until modern science threw the West 
temporarily off-balance — has helpful things to suggest toward the 
creation of a viable pattern for our time, is this book's basic thesis. 
It does not argue foolishly that traditional peoples were, or 
are, universally wise. Their science has been superseded, and 

viii / PREFACE 

modernity blew the whistle on slavery, even as postmodernity is 
blowing it on racial and gender injustices. But if somewhere hid- 
den in the depths of things there are invariants — things that 
resemble the floor of the ocean over which currents sweep, and 
waves atop those currents — it doesn't much matter when they are 
pondered, unless (to switch metaphors) one has been in a tun- 
nel so long one has forgotten that sun and stars and rain exist. 
The premodern realization that they do exist — that things more 
wonderful than the tunnel vision of modernity allowed are not 
only real but more real than the ones that pushed them out of 
sight — is the thesis this essay explores with absolute seriousness. 
Four additional points deserve note. 

The first concerns the need for twentieth-century science to 
posit invisible realities, a need that has gathered momentum 
since this book first appeared. At the opening of the century, 
William James epitomized religion as "belief that there is an un- 
seen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously ad- 
justing ourselves thereto." In those terms modernity couldn't be 
wholeheartedly religious, for it looked to science to tell it what 
existed, and science's silence regarding the unseen rendered 
distinctive religious objects — God, soul, and the like — suspect. 
That silence has now lifted; science speaks increasingly of the 
invisible, and does so respectfully. Ninety percent of the scien- 
tist's universe (some say ninety-nine percent) is at present invis- 
ible; no instruments pick it up, but calculations require that it 
be posited to account for the gravitational pull on the rims of 
galaxies. Instruments may yet be invented that will bring this 
"dark matter" to light, but even if they are, we will still be left 
with the wave packets from which particles derive. No scientist 
expects that those packets will ever be observed. 

So science is conceding that invisibles exist, and more. It also 
concedes that these invisibles precede the visible and create or 
in some way give rise to it. The aforementioned wave packets 
attest to this, but if we take the particle, rather than the wave, 
approach to matter, we get the same result. For protons derive 
from photons, and photons are only "virtually" material: they 
have no rest mass, lose no energy to the mediums they traverse, 


and are not objectively (intersubjectively) detectable because 
they are annihilated by being perceived. To summarize the way 
in which science perceives the seen as deriving from the un- 
seen, I will anticipate a short paragraph that appears in larger 
context on pages 115-16. 

All matter is created out of some imperceptible substratum. This 
substratum is not accurately described as material, since it uni- 
formly fills all space and is undetectable by any observation. In a 
sense it appears as nothingness — immaterial, undetectable, and 
omnipresent. But it is a peculiar form of nothingness, out of which 
all matter is created. 

The second point that deserves mention concerns hierar- 
chies. The multileveled world that this book unfolds may seem 
to be in tension with critiques of hierarchies that are now 
healthily afoot, but it is not. For the critique is of social hierar- 
chies, whereas this book deals with metaphysical ones. Meta- 
physically, all human beings are equal for populating a single 
level of reality, the human level which Chapters Three and Four 
place in larger context. Moreover, though social hierarchies can 
be oppressive and often are, not all are of this nature. The hier- 
archical relationships between loving parents and their small 
children are benign and empowering; the same may be said of 
well-ordered classrooms. The basic claim of religion is that 
God's relation to the world presents us with the paradigmatic 
instance of a benign, empowering hierarchy. In Christian for- 
mulation, "God became man that man might become God" 

Third, it is gratifying to find that my critique of Darwinism 
(as distinct from evolution) in Chapter Six has gained support 
since it was written. Those who wish to update themselves on 
the subject are directed to Phillip E. Johnson's Darwin on Trial 
(Washington, D. C: Regnery Gateway, 1991); and the booklet, 
"Evolution as Dogma," published by Haughton Publishing Co., 
PO. Box 180218, Dallas, TX 75218-0218. 

Finally, overpopulation, the ecological crisis, and other traumas 
that threaten our very survival. This book does not address 


them. Not, though, from indifference, but out of the conviction 
that on their own plane social problems are unsolvable. The 
causes of social disease, like organic disease, lie deep. Ultimately 
as deep as the view of our human place in the total scheme of 
things which this book addresses. 

Huston Smith 
Berkeley, California 
June, 1992 

That which is lacking in the present world is a 
profound knowledge of the nature of things. 


1. JUe Way TlniNQs Are 

In envisioning the way things are, there is no better place 
to begin than with modern science. Equally, there is no worse 
place to end, but that is for later; for now it is the beginning 
that concerns us. Science is the fitting starting point, partly 
because of its achievements, which according to Herbert But- 
terfield outshine everything since the rise of Christianity — 
others have claimed since the invention of language. Even 
more pertinent, however, is the fact that science dominates the 
modern mind. Through and through, from premises to con- 
clusions, the contemporary mind is science-ridden. Its sway is 
the stronger because we are unaware of its extent. 

There may be no better way to summarize the scientific view 
of things than to say that reality is a stupendous spatial hier- 
archy, a hierarchy of size. In its middle register, the meso-world 
in which our daily lives are lived, we encounter objects carry- 
ing the proportions of inches, feet, and miles. In the micro- 
world that undergirds this meso-world, cells measure on the 
order of thousandths of an inch, atoms hundreds of millionths 
of an inch, and their nuclei thousandths of billionths of an 
inch. As we continue downward, or rather inward, from 
nuclei to nucleons and their ingredient particles, the orders of 
inverse magnitude continue to unfold exponentially. 

Reversing our direction we enter the macro-world. Our sun 
revolves around our galaxy at a speed of 160 miles per second, 
about 23 times the speed a rocket must attain to escape from 
the earth's surface. At this speed it takes the sun approximately 



240 million years to complete a single rotation. If the orbit 
seems large, it is in fact parochial, for it is confined to our own 
galaxy, which is but one among estimated billions. Andromeda, 
our closest sizable neighbor, is 2,200,000 light-years away, and 
beyond it space falls away abysmally, nebula after nebula, 
island universe after island universe, until we reach the limits 
of our known universe, some 26 billion light-years "across," 
whatever that means in a four-dimensional pseudosphere. 

Now it happens that the view of reality that preceded that 
of modern science was likewise hierarchical. Centering in the 
human plane, it too opened onto higher realms above and 
nether ones below, the heavens and hells of the traditional 


Macro-worlds Heavens 

Meso-world Earth 

M icr o - w o r 1 d s Hells 

The two views are at one in sharing a hierarchical layout, but 
the units of measure are different. The scientific gauge is 
quantity; space, size, and strength of forces can all be reckoned 
numerically. The comparable "yardstick" in the traditional 
hierarchy was quality It had, over the millennia, two distinct 

1. Language impounds this traditional measure. Dictionaries show that 
the word "hierarchy" originally designated echelons of angels, the root hier 
meaning "holy." 

An alternative word for the traditional yardstick might be "virtue," 


readings that overlapped. To the popular mind it meant es- 
sentially euphoria: better meant happier, worse less happy. 
Reflective minds, on the other hand, considered happiness to 
be only an aspect of quality, not its defining feature.^ The 
word "significance" points us in the direction of the feature 
they considered fundamental, but significance too was deriva- 
tive. It was taken for granted that the higher worlds abounded 
in meaning, significance, and importance, but this was because 
they were saturated with being and were therefore more real. 
Sat, Chit, Ananda: Being, Awareness, and Bliss. All three per- 
tained, but Being, being basic, came first. In the last analysis, 
the scale in the traditional hierarchy was ontological. 

What it means for one thing to be more real than another 
will, we trust, become clear as this book proceeds. For the pres- 
ent we note that the view of reality as consisting of graded 
levels of being doniinated man's outlook until the rise of 
modern science. As we intend to make something of this point, 
it will be well to fix it into place by documenting it. 

With the possible exception of Claude L^vi-Strauss, no one 
today is more qualified to pronounce on the mentality of pre- 
civilized man than is Mircea Eliade. Reducing the ontological 
hierarchy to its minimum to cover all cases of such men, Eliade 
finds this minimum to consist in a dichotomy between the 
sacred and the profane. "The man of the archaic societies tends 
to live as much as possible in the sacred . . . ," he writes, "be- 
cause for primitives . . . the sacred is equivalent to a power, 
and, in the last analysis, to reality. The sacred is saturated "with 

That which prevailed for tribes carried over into civiliza- 

with its twin connotations of goodness and power. In Dante's Divine 
Co7nedy, the planetary heavens and the heaven of fixed stars that surrounds 
it are pictured as concentric spheres, "all the more vast inasmuch as they 
possess more virtue." 

2. "Better Socrates unhappy than a pig happy." Mill's famous aphorism 
points up the inability of euphoria to stand as value's final arbiter. 

3. Willard Trask, trans., The Sacred and the Profane (New York: Harper 
& Row, 1961), p. 12. 



Unit of measure: 

S n Macro-worlds 

V 2 Meso-world 

.§ A Micro-worlds 
CO / 

Unit of measure: 

Popular notion of 
quality: euphoria 

Reflective notion of 
quality: importance, 
significance, powei; 
beatitude, etc., as 
deriving from being 

IHigher Planes 
i '^arth^ 

V Lower Planes 

*The alternatives can also be read, roughly, as "scientific vs. humanistic," 
and "secular vs. sacred." 

tions: they refined the hierarchical perspective but kept its 
basic structure. "It has, in one form or another, been the-domi- 
nant official philosophy of the larger part of civilized mankind 
through most of its history," writes Arthur Lovejoy in The 
Great Chain of Being (which along with Ren^ Guenon's Les 
Etats Multiples de I'Etre is one of the two studies devoted ex- 
clusively to this concept); taught "in their several fashions and 
with differing degrees of rigor and thoroughness [by] the 
greater number of subtler speculative minds and of the great 
religious teachers."^ 

Having noted the universality of the hierarchical perspective 
in both tribes and civilizations generally, we narrow in on the 
civilization that is our own. Here, for philosophy, Plato forged 
the paradigm. Atop being's hierarchy is the Form of the Good, 

4, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936, p. 26. 


the most real of the various grades of reality, the "Good Itself." 
Radically different from our everyday world, it can be described 
only through poetic images. Nevertheless, being "pure perfec- 
tion," it is the universal object of desire. It is also, of all 
subordinate things, their cause. Such ancillary and partially 
privative entities are logically required, Plato's successors (such 
as Proclus) argued, by virtue of what Lovejoy called "the 
principle of plenitude"; they are possible, and if any possibil- 
ity were unactualized it would constitute, as it were, a hole in 
Being's fullness and negate its infinity. Aristotle elaborated on 
the graded character of the finite portion of the spectrum;'' for 
the scala naturae he provided biological specifics and a defini- 
tion of continuity which came to be applied to the scale as 
a whole. In the words of Love joy's summary: 

The result was the conception of the plan and structure of the 
world which, through the Middle Ages and down to the late 
eighteenth century . . . most educated men were to accept without 
question — the conception of the universe as a "Great Chain of 
Being," composed of an immense, or . . . infinite, number of links 
ranging in hierarchical order from the meagerest kind of existents 
. . . through "every possible" grade up to the ens perfectissimum.^ 

"Down to the late eighteenth century," Lovejoy tells us. 
Why did the hierarchical outlook then collapse? As it had 
blanketed human history up to that point, constituting man's 
primordial tradition and what might almost be called the hu- 
man unanimity, the force that leveled it must have been^pow- 
erful, and modern science is the obvious candidate. The timing 
is right: Bacon, Hobbes, and Newton saw the writing on the 
wall in the seventeenth century, but it took another century 
for the scientific outlook to sweep the field. And the logic is 
inexorable: the structure of the two views is such that it was 
inevitable that they collide. Modern science requires only one 

5. "All individual things may be graded according to the degree to which 
they are infected with potentiality." W. D. Ross, Aristotle (London: 
Methuen, 1949), p. 178. 

6. Great Chain of Being, p. 59. 


ontological level, the physical. Within this level it begins with 
matter that is perceptible, and to perceptible matter it in the 
end returns, for however far its hypotheses extend, eventually 
they must be brought back to pointer readings and the like for 
verification. Between their beginnings and their ends the hy- 
potheses may cross foreign waters, for in its micro- and macro- 
reaches matter behaves in unfamiliar ways. This does not, how- 
ever, alter the fact that the matter (or rather matter/energfy) 
with which the hypotheses deal remains such throughout, sub- 
ject to matrices of space and time however redefined: curved 
space is odd, but it is still space. To whatsoever corner of the 
universe nature is tracked, it continues in some way to honor 
science's basic indices: space, time, and the matter/energy 
that are convertible. It is by virtue of the fact that science fits 
exhaustively into these matrices that its contents are, in last 
analysis, of a kind. A spatio-temporal state of affairs is a spatio- 
temporal state of affairs. Or, at a higher level of abstraction, 
a number is a number, and number is the language of science. 
Objects can be larger or smaller, forces can be stronger or 
weaker, durations can be longer or shorter, these all being 
numerically reckonable. But to speak of anything in science 
as having a different ontological status — as being better, say, 
or more real — is to speak nonsense. 

Itself occupying no more than a single ontological plane, sci- 
ence challenged by implication the notion that other planes 
exist. As its challenge was not effectively met, it swept the field 
and gave the modern world its soul. For this is the final defini- 
tion of modernity: an outlook in which this world, this onto- 
logical plane, is the only one that is genuinely countenanced 
and affirmed.'^ In religion modernity demythologizes tradition 
to accommodate it to its one-story universe; if "God" in princi- 
ple requires more exalted quarters, the nonexistence of such 

7. An instance of what we mean: Once while discussing psychic phenom- 
ena with Freud, his biographer, Ernest Jones, remarked: "If one could 
believe in mental processes floating in the air, one could go on to believe 
in angels." Whereupon Freud closed the discussion with the comment: 
"Quite so, and even der Hebe Gott" — even the dear God. 


quarters entails his nonexistence as well; hence Death-of-God 
theologians. Existentialism does its best to give man purchase 
in a world built for the examination of things, but subjective 
truth is no match for objective, so in the main philosophy, too, 
accepts the working premises of science. "The best way to char- 
acterize Quine's world view is to say that . . . there is funda- 
mentally only one kind of entity in the world, and that is the 
kind studied by natural scientists— physical objects; and second, 
that there is only one kind of knowledge in the world, and it 
is the kind that natural scientists have."^ Willard Quine is 
the most influential American philosopher of the last twenty 

That the scientific outlook should, in Carl Becker's word, 
have "ravished" the modern mind is completely understand- 
able. Through technology, science effects miracles: skyscrapers 
that stand; men standing on the moon. Moreover, in its early 
stages these miracles were in the direction of the heart's desire: 
multiplication of goods and the reduction of drudgery and dis- 
ease. There was the sheer noetic majesty of the house pure 
science erected, and above all there was method. By enabling 
men to agree on the truth because it could be demonstrated, 
this method produced a knowledge that was cumulative and 
could advance. No wonder man converted. The conversion 
was not forced. It did not occur because scientists were imperi- 
alists but because their achievements were so impressive, their 
marching orders so exhilarating, that thinkers jostled to join 
their ranks. ^ 

We ourselves were once in their number and would be so 
today were it not for a fact that has become increasingly un- 
blinkable. Strictly speaking, a scientific world view is impos- 
sible; it is a contradiction in terms. The reason is that science 
does not treat of the world; it treats of a part of it only. 
One world at a time, one hears. Fair enough, but not half a 
world, which is all that science can offer. 

At this point matters grow awkward, for we are conscious of 

8. Richard Schuldenfrei, "Quine in Perspective," The Journal of Philoso- 
phy, LXIX, 1 (Jan. 13, 1972), 5. 


entering upon a hackneyed theme. We beg, however, for the 
reader's closest attention; we wish he could read the balance 
of this chapter as if he were encountering its argument for 
the first time. For its conclusion is one of those things that 
one knows yet never learns. The conclusion is this: Though 
man's conversion to the scientific outlook is understandable 
psychologically, logically it involves a clean mistake. Insofar 
as we allow our minds to be guided by reason, we can see that 
to try to live within the scientific view of reality would be like 
living in a house's scaffolding, and to love it like embracing 
one's spouse's skeleton. 

Every advance in our understanding of the scientific method 
renders this conclusion more inescapable. Indeed, if there is 
anything new in the version of the argument about to be pre- 
sented, it lies in the near-consensus of scientists and philoso- 
phers of science that can now be invoked in its support. 

As a probe toward the way things are, science is a powerful 
but strictly limited instrument. One wonders if it was during 
the Battle of Britain that Karl Popper of the University of 
London, ranking philosopher of science in our generation, hit 
upon an image that has become standard in making this point. 
His image likens science to a searchlight scanning a night sky 
for planes. For a plane to register, two things are required: it 
must exist, and it must be where the beam is. The plane must 
be, and it must be there (where the beam is). 

The point of this image is, of course, to make plain the re- 
stricted nature of the scientific quest. Far from lighting up the 
entire sky, it illumines but an arc within it. Norbert Wiener 
used to make the point by saying: "Messages from the universe 
arrive addressed no more specifically than 'To Whom It May 
Concern.' Scientists open those that concern them." No mosaic 
constructed from messages thus narrowly selected can be the 
full picture. 

These images make their point in a general way, but they 
provide no particulars. Precisely how is science limited? In 
what ways does it restrict its interests? 


If the plane had 
been here, the beam 

Science is not one thing. It resembles a village more than 
it does a single individual. But villages often have greens, and 
they are usually located near their centers. Following this 
analogy, we can move in on science by way of a series of con- 
centric circles. 


The outer, enveloping circle is labeled objectivity. No knowl- 
edge can claim to be scientific in any sense until it enters this 
domain, which is to say, until it elicits intersubjective agree- 
ment. It must commend itself to human knowers generally, 
provided only that they are competent in the subject in ques- 
tion. We move closer to the heart of science, however, when we 
enter the second circle, prediction. Taxonomy is a science in 
some sense, but it does not command the respect we accord to 
the predictive sciences. When an astronomer tells us that so 
many years hence, at such and such an hour on such and such a 
night, the moon will enter eclipse, and this happens, we 
are impressed. Not content to describe what occurs in nature, 
the astronomer has pressed on to uncover its operators. A 
scientist who goes further and takes command of these oper- 
ators, throwing switches in the tracks on which nature runs, 
so to speak, steps even closer to science's center, into the circle 
marked control. It might seem that from the standpoint of pure 
as against applied science the distinction between prediction 
and control is small, but in fact it is important. In pure sci- 
ence controlled experiments set the stage for predictions that 
could not be made without them — science grows exact by being 
exacting — while in applied science (technology) control is 
where the money lies. It is to the science that can build missile 
systems and stamp out polio that the coffers of government 
swing wide. To overlook the extent to which this affects the 
shape of science as a sociohistorical enterprise would be naive.* 

The fourth guideline of science takes the form, not of another 
circle that hugs its center even more tightly, but of an arrow 
which, beginning at the outer rim, drives straight to the center 
itself. The name of this final guideline is number.^^ Number, 

9. Science is the controlled observation of nature, technology its con- 
trolled exploitation. Heidegger calls both "provocative" and sees "self' 
and "control" as the dominant, though concealed, motifs not only of 
modem science but of the basic notion of truth that develops in the West. 
Nietzsche anticipated him in seeing modern science as the product of the 
will to power that animates all Western thought and history. 

10. Or more precisely, mathematics, which embraces the study of relation- 
shifM that are numerical and ones that are not, such as "greater /smaller," 


as has already been remarked, is the language of science; the 
more knowledge can be expressed quantitatively, in probability 
equations and the like, the more scientific it is considered to 
be.ii The question of whether the social sciences will achieve 
the status of true sciences turns on this point, with economics 
being, at present, the test case. 

It will be objected that this fourfold characterization pre- 
sents science in its narrowest light. There is much talk today 
of expanding the scientific method to make it applicable to 
broader, more humane considerations. By directing this method 
to new problems, the scientific enterprise can indeed, within 
limits, be expanded, but not the scientific method itself. For 
it is precisely from the narrowness of that method that its 
power derives, so that to urge its expansion is like recommend- 
ing that a dentist's drill be broadened so it can churn a bit 
of butter on the side.^^ \Ye are at liberty, of course, to use 

"coincides with/does not coincide with," "falls within this set/does not so 
fall," these latter being the preserve of mathematical logic. It is in this 
inclusive sense of mathematics that Whitehead writes, "All science as it 
grows toward perfection becomes mathematical in its ideal." 

11. This point was first brought home to me through a chance conver- 
sation while I was teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 
Lunching at its Faculty Club, I found myself seated next to a scientist, and 
as so often happened in such circumstances the conversation turned to 
the difference between science and the humanities. We were getting no- 
where when suddenly he broke in on something I was saying with the 
authority of a man who had discovered Truth. "I have it!" he exclaimed. 
"The difference between us is that I count and you don't." 

The key differences between the primordial and contemporary perspec- 
tives in a double entendre. 

12. In Where the Wasteland Ends, Theodore Roszak calls for "changing 
the fundamental sensibility of scientific thought — and doing so even if we 
must drastically revise the professional character of science and its place 
in our culture." He proposes a science that is dominated by a "rhapsodic 
intellect" which "would subordinate much research to those contemplative 
encounters with nature that deepen, but do not increase knowledge" 
(Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1972), pp. 374-75. 

To which a practicing scientist rightly replies: "My answer is that science 
cannot change in this way without destroying itself, because however 
much human values are involved in the scientific process or are affected 
by the results of scientific research, there is an essential element in science 
that is cold, objective, and nonhuman." Steveti Weinberg, "Reflections of 
a Working Scientist," Daedalus, CIII, 3 (Summer 1974), 42. 


words as we please, and "science" is no exception. We can 
even revert to its scholastic definition wherein theology is 
science's queen — would the proponents of an expanded science 
like this definition better? The hope is only that Confucius 
will be honored in his call for "the rectification of names," 
his plea that when we use words we understand and make 
plain what we are doing with them. Underlying much of the 
call for an expanded science is a stifled cry: "Please, in this age 
of science, believe me, too, the way scientists are believed," or 
"Please consider my research proposal eligible for funding by 
the National Science Foundation, whose budget is many times 
that of the National Endowment on the Arts and the Humani- 
ties." But we need not resort to ad hominems. For all we know, 
the larger part of the motive for trying to expand science is 
not self-serving; it is merely mistaken. The idealistic element 
in it is its desire to achieve in the understanding of man what 
science has achieved in the understanding of matter. Its mis- 
take is in not seeing that the tools for the one are of strictly 
limited utility for the other, and that the practice of trying to 
see man as an object which the tools of science will fit leads 
first to underrating and then to losing sight of his attributes 
those tools miss. (Pages of illustrations, but the mere titles of 
B. F. Skinner's Beyond Freedom and Dignity and Herbert 
Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man will, in opposite ways, suf- 
fice.) If it be asked, "But what did the nonscientific approach 
to man and the world give us?" the answer is: "Meaning, pur- 
pose, and a vision in which everything coheres." But we are 
getting ahead of our story. 

We were speaking of numbers, and the subject warrants a 
second small excursus before we leave it. Why numbers work 
as they do with nature — or to put the matter the other way 
around, why nature is as mathematical as it has proven to be 
— no one fully understands. Eugene Wigner speaks of "the 
unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics"; it is a mystery 
sufficient to awaken the Pythagorean in us all. One of the 
reasons for mathematics' effectiveness, however, we do know. 
Numbers and their logical operators are the only symbols, or 


rather signs, that are completely unambiguous: 4 is 4 and that 
is the end of the matter. This alone could account for why sci- 
entists press in their direction, for whatever else science seeks, 
it seeks precision. 

One can sense a problem brewing here, for if number is the 
vehicle of precision (major premise), and number is not the 
unit of measure in tradition (minor premise), whose basic 
measure is quality rather than quantity, does it not follow (con- 
clusion) that the traditional outlook is forever and in principle 
condemned to vagueness? As far as descriptions of that outlook 
are concerned, and insofar as these descriptions are compared 
with scientific descriptions, the answer must be yes; the syllo- 
gism is valid. But lest it be concluded that this difference closes 
the books on the traditional perspective, we must register im- 
mediately that tradition's limitations in the direction of pre- 
cision carry compensations. The alternative to numbers is 
words. Whereas numbers are signs, words are symbols, and 
therefore by their very nature equivocal; their ambiguity can 
be reduced but never eliminated. This bars them from the 
needle's eye of absolute precision, but the loose ends that pre- 
vent them from piercing that eye endow them with a texture 
that numbers cannot match. Multivalent, irreducibly equivocal 
in intimation and nuance where not actually ambiguous in dic- 
tionary definition, words reach out like a banyan root system, as 
tangled and in as many directions. Folding and refolding in 
adumbration and allusion, they weave, veer, and seek out sub- 
liminal soil. No wonder logicians flee their meanderings in 
favor of fixed and adamantine glyphs. The despair of logicians 
is the humanist's glory. From the adversity of verbal ambiguity, 
opportunity opens. The multivalence of language enables it 
to mesh with the multidimensionality of the human spirit, de- 
picting its higher reaches as numbers never can.^^ Equations 

13. Exceptions to this statement are numerologists and "gnostic mathe- 
maticians" for whom numbers. function as symbols reflecting another realm. 
Pythagoras was such, as were certain members of Plato's Academy who, by 
Aristotle's report, claimed that "the Forms are numbers." 

That type is exceptional, but another point relating to the number/words 
distinction is of general interest. In the chapter on "Information" in his 


can be elegant, but that is a separate matter. Poems cannot 
be composed in numbers. 

We are now in a position to see how science is limited. The 
knowledge with which it is exclusively occupied is, to begin 
with, objective. It must be intersubjectively confirmable, and 
since sense data are what men most incontrovertibly agree on 
after the tautologies of mathematics and logic, the knowledge 
science seeks is that which at some level of amplification can 
connect with man's senses. That which so connects is energy/ 
matter, so energy/matter in its manifold forms and permuta- 
tions is science's object. Within its domain science looks espe- 
cially for precise — which in the end means mathematically 
expressible — knowledge that is predictive and augments con- 

What lies outside this pale? 

1. Values in their final and proper sense. Some time ago 
Bertrand Russell acknowledged that "the sphere of values lies 
outside science, except insofar as science consists in the pursuit 
of knowledge,"^* and even his exception is not truly such, for 
the value of pursuing knowledge, though assumed by science, 
is not itself scientifically derived. Science can deal with instru- 
mental values but not intrinsic ones. // health is valued over 
immediate somatic gratification, smoking is bad, but the "if" 

Lives of a Cell, Lewis Thomas cites ambiguity as the property that dis- 
tinguishes language from other modes of biological communcation: 

Ambiguity seems to be an essential, indispensible element for the transfer 
of information from one place to another by words, where matters of real 
importance are concerned. It is often necessary, for meaning to come 
through, that there be an almost vague sense of strangeness and askew- 
ness. Speechless animals and cells cannot do 'this. . . . Only the human 
mind is designed to work in this way, programmed to drift away in the 
presence of locked-on information, straying from each point in a hunt 
for a better, different point" (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1974), p. 111. 

Language is biological in that we are programmed to learn it, Dr. Thomas 
concludes, but it is peculiar in being a "programming for ambiguity," to 
put the matter in the paradox his point requires. 

For the present book, which warns against over-reliance on a mode of 
knowing that favors monovalent numbers over multivalent words, the 
point is big with consequences. 

14. "Science and Valqes," in Philip Wiener, ed., Readings in the Philos- 
ophy of Science (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953), p. 599. 


itself science cannot adjudicate. Again, science can deal with 
values descriptively but not prescriptively. It can tell us what 
men do prize, but not what they should prize. Market research 
and opinion polls are sciences, but as the word is used today 
there can be no science of the summum bonum. Normative 
values elude its grasp. 

2. Purposes. For science to get on with its job, Aristotle's 
final causes had to be banished and the field cleared for ex- 
planation in terms of efficient causes alone. Whether the case 
be that of Galileo and falling stones or Kepler and light, the 
shift "from the mechanics of antiquity to modern mechanics 
[comes through] the . . . separation of primary and secondary 
qualities, . . . the numerical and affective aspects of nature, . . . 
to remove the language of volition and teleology, and to fortify 
the notion of 'impersonal,' causal laws of motion."i° Vitalism 
is unscientific. Behavioral science traces "purposive behavior" 
to instincts and conditioning, a la B. F. Skinner; biology tracks 
tropisms to the codings of genes or chromosomes, k la Monod's 
Chance and Necessity. It is "feedback loops" that render organ- 
isms "teleonomic." "The cornerstone of scientific method is . . . 
the systematic denial that 'true' knowledge can be got at by 
interpreting phenomena in terms of final causes — that is to 
say, of 'purpose.' "^^ 

3. Life meanings. Science itself is meaningful from begin- 
ning to end, but on certain kinds of meanings — ones that are 
existential and global — it is silent. What is the meaning of our 
days? Does life make sense? Does the cosmic drama have point 
and purpose? As a human being, a scientist may become en- 
gaged with such questions, but his science will not help him 
answer them.^^ It is as if as scientist he were situated inside a 
balloon. He can shine his flashlight anywhere on its interior, 

15. Gerald Holton, "The Roots of Ck)mplementarity," Daedalus, XCIX, 
4 (Autumn 1970), 1023. 

16. Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity (New York: Vintage Books, 
1972). p. 21. 

17. Even in the period in which scientific propositions enjoyed pride of 
place in his philosophy, Wittgenstein acknowledged that they leave "the 
problems of life . . . completely untouched" (Tractatus, 6.52). 


but he cannot get outside it to see it as a whole or in perspec- 

4. Quality. This is basic to the lot, for it is the qualitative 
ingredient in values, meanings, and purposes that accounts 
for their power. Certain qualities (such as colors) are connected 
with quantifiable substrates (lightwaves of given lengths), but 
quality itself is unmeasurable.^^ Either it is perceived for what 
it is or it is not, and nothing can convey its nature to anyone 
who cannot perceive it directly. The most that one can do is 
to compare things that have a quality with things that do not, 
and even then the comparison is meaningful only to persons 
who know from experience what the quality in question is. 
Inability to deal with the qualitatively unmeasurable leads sci- 
ence to work with what Lewis Mumford calls "a disqualified 

Values, life meanings, purposes, and qualities slip through 
science like sea slips through the nets of fishermen. Yet man 
swims in this sea, so he cannot exclude it from his purview. 
This is what was meant when we noted earlier that a scientific 
world view is in principle impossible. Taken in its entirety, 
the world is not as science says it is; it is as science, philosophy, 
religion, the arts, and everyday speech say it is. Not science 
but the sum of man's symbol systems, of which science is but 
one, is the measure of things. 

With science itself there can be no quarrel. Scientism is 
another matter. Whereas science is positive, contenting itself 
with reporting what it discovers, scientism is negative. It goes 
beyond the actual findings of science to deny that other ap- 
proaches to knowledge are valid and other truths true. In 
doing so it deserts science in favor of metaphysics— bad meta- 
physics, as it happens, for as the contention that there are no 
truths save those of science is not itself a scientific truth, in 
affirming it scientism contradicts itself. It also carries marks of 
a religion — a secular religion, resulting from overextrapolation 

18. Augustine noted the distinction with respect to time. "For so it is, 
O Lord, my God, I measure it, but what it is I measure I do not know." 


from science, that has seldom numbered great scientists among 
its votaries. Science has enormous difficulty dealing with things 
that cannot be measured (if it can deal with them at all), 
yet David Bohm, who is a great scientist, says that "the 
immeasurable is the primary and independent source of all 
reality. . . . Measure is a secondary and dependent aspect of 
this reality."" 
Where are we? 

Searching for the way things are, we found that the modern 
reduction of reality to a single ontological level was the result 
of science. But its psychological, not its logical, result; this 
was our further finding. Nothing in what science has dis- 
covered controverts the existence of realms other than the 
one with which it deals. Meanwhile our growing understand- 
ing of the scientific method shows us that there are things 
science by-passes. Whether these neglected items belong to a 
distinct ontological scale, science, of course, does not say; it 
says nothing whatever about them. The fact that scientific 
instruments do not pick them up shows only that they differ 
in some way from the data science does register. 

As long as modernity was captive of an outlook presumed 
to be scientific but in fact scientistic, reality was taken to be 
as science mirrored it. Now that it is apparent that science 
peers down a restricted viewfinder, we are released from that 
misconception. The view that appears in a restricted view- 
finder is a restricted view. 

Since reality exceeds what science registers, we must look 
for other antennae to catch the wavebands it misses. What 
other antennae are there? None more reliable than the con- 
vergent sensibilities of, in Lovejoy's characterization, "the 
greater number of the subtler speculative minds and of the 
great religious teachers" that civilizations have produced; and, 
we have added with Eliade, that archaic societies have produced 
as well. Lovejoy's crediting of the hierarchical outlook to the 

19. Journal of the Blaisdell Institute, IX. 2 (1974) , 70. 


subtler of human minds gains force from the fact that, writing 
as he did in the heyday of scientism, he thought the hierarchi- 
cal outlook mistaken. When we combine (a) the fact that it has 
been the subtler minds which, when not thrown off balance by 
the first flush of the scientific breakthrough, have gravitated to 
the hierarchical view, with (b) the further fact that, from the 
multiple heavens of Judaism to the storied structure of the 
Hindu temple and the angelologies of innumerable traditions, 
the view was reached convergently and independently, as if by 
innate tropism, by virtually all known societies; when, to 
repeat, we combine these two facts and bring them into align- 
ment, they entitle us to regard a tiered reality as man's central 
surmise when the full range of his experience is legitimated and 
pondered profoundly. Constituting until recently, through 
both rumored and recorded history, what we have ventured to 
call the human unanimity — the phrase overstates the case 
slightly, but not much — it presents itself as the natural human 
outlook: the view that is normal to man's station because 
consonant with the complete complement of human sen- 
sibilities. It is the vision philosophers have dreamed, mystics 
have seen, and prophets have transmitted. 

Spatial metaphors are always dangerous, 
though unavoidable, in Theology. In space if A 
is touching B then B must be touching A. In the 
spiritual world this is not so. God is near me 
(or rather in me), and yet I may be far from 
God because I may be far from my own true 

c. E. ROLT, Introduction to Dionysius 
the Areopagite, The Divine Names 
and The Mystical Theology 

Tell the truth, but tell it slant. 


2. SyMboliSM of SpACE: 


A misunderstanding dogs the view of reality as multi- 
leveled which, if not dispelled, will vitiate everything that 
follows. Levels imply space, space entails distance, and distance 
spells separation. But separation is what religion seeks to over- 
come. Does it not follow that a hierarchical ontology which 
splits reality into a number of discrete levels builds cleavage 
into the very structure of existence and thereby makes endemic 
the disease religion seeks to cure? Reasonings of this sort 
appear to be widespread. How else are we to account for the 
attention an Anglican bishop received for his midlife discovery 
that God is not "out there"? We refer to the reception accorded 
John Robinson's Honest to God. 

Actually, there is a sense in which God emphatically is "out 
there." In his power and awe-filled majesty he is ganz anders, 
radically other, infinitely removed from what we are and 
thereby "high as the heaven is above the earth." Concomi- 
tantly, of course, he is "nearer than our jugular vein," "closer 



to US than breathing, nearer than hands and feet," for "in 
him we live and move and have our being." In Augustine's 
plain words, "It is arrant nonsense that the soul is without 
Him who is everywhere." Transcendence and immanence, in 
absolute tension. If we lose our grip on either, the tone in our 
spiritual life collapses. 

The reception Bishop Robinson's book received was the lay 
aftermath of the reception theologians had themselves for a 
generation accorded Rudolf Bultmann's move to "demytholo- 
gize" Christian cosmology of its three-storied universe. Both 
evince a surprising innocence regarding religious symbols and 
the way they function. One of the reasons a hierarchical view 
of reality is indispensable is that Spirit, the human spirit 
included, is nonspatial and thereby belongs perforce to an 
order of existence distinct in kind from nature. It follows that 
no spatial, geographical terms — out there, deep within, high 
and lifted up, basic, fundamental, exalted, whatever — can 
characterize Spirit literally. But as an epigraph at the head of 
this chapter notes, neither can such terms be avoided. Insofar 
as we think, spatial images are inevitable, for thought proceeds 
through language, and language is forged in our encounter 
with the spatio-temporal world. 

Envisioned externally, as residing outside of man and apart 
from him, the Good dons metaphors of height: "I shall lift 
up mine eyes unto the hills . , . "; "in the year that King 
Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and lifted up." When man 
reverses his gaze and looks inward, his value-imagery likewise 
transposes; it turns over. Within man, the best lies deepest; 
it is basic, fundamental, the ground of his being. All the levels 
of reality are within man, for microcosm mirrors macrocosm; 
man mirrors the Infinite. But mirrors invert; hence symbol- 
ism's "law of inverse analogy."^ That which man seeks exter- 

1. If the reader objects that mirrors reverse right/left but not up/down, 
he should read Ned Block,"?nwoa\qU JoH Jod JlaJXJdgiil snsvail noiiil/ 
oQ yriV/" The Journal of Philosophy, LXXI, 9 (May 16, 1974), 259 ff. 
The written page which a mirror reverses right/left has been turned 


nally in the highest heavens he seeks internally in the depths 
of his soul. Spiritual space, like physical, is curved. We journey 
far to reach our origin. 

Externally, the good dons 
images of height. Mountains are 
sacred, and gods dwell in the 
/ heavens from whence sunlight and 

■..• ■•^i-. / rain proceed. 

/ " 

^■■■/r -i^c 

Internally, the good dons images 
of depth. We sense it as centered, 
like the heart and other vital 
organs, within a protective sheath 
of bone and sinew. 

We trust that this brief note on the symbolism of space 
removes what would otherwise be an insuperable obstacle to 
the concept of an hierarchical reality. Its higher levels are 
not literally elsewhere; they are removed only in the sense of 
being inaccessible to ordinary consciousness — invisible,.,. for 
one thing. In this respect the multiple states of being resemble 
multiple dimensions more than they do multiple levels. If 
space has indeed a fourth dimension — we are not referring to 
time — that dimension is not elsewhere; it intersects the three 
dimensions we see, albeit invisibly. The imagery of dimensions 

right/left, not upside down, to face the mirror. This is only the beginning 
of the complexities that reflected vision presents, but for present purposes 
these are irrelevant. Quite apart from mirrors, the image that is filtered 
to the retina through the eye's lens is already inverted, practice being 
required for us to compensate for that fact and "see" the image as upright. 


has the further advantage of underscoring the ontological 
differences at issue. Distance can render things invisible and 
this the imagery of levels allows, but something that is invisible 
while being right under one's nose, not because it is covered or 
microscopic but because we lack the kind of sense receptors 
that could connect with it — a something of this sort is 
intrinsically mysterious. Science fiction writers know this: good 
science fiction is set on other planets, great science fiction in 
other dimensions. For to repeat, the notion of dimensions 
beyond our normal three is uncanny from the outset, before 
anything is made to happen within them. In its preoccupation 
with a "more" that exceeds man's ken, science fiction is kin to 
religion, the emphatic difference, of course, being that what 
is fiction for one is for the other fact. 

In view of the double advantage of dimensions over levels 
— the advantage that dimensions, when multiplied, announce 
domains that are (a) inherently awe-filled while being (b) 
directly at hand — we might be tempted to adopt them as our 
controlling spatial metaphor. To do so, however, would be a 
mistake, for the simple reason that dimensions lack a value 
gradient. Length is not better than breadth, breadth than 
height, or whatever. ither than being distributed across 
spatial dimensions, vp^'ie differences fall along a single one, 
the vertical. Better anr" worse are not left and right; they are 
superior and inferior. And because the comparative worth of 
existences is crucial to our concerns, the imagery of levels is on 
balance more appropriate. 

It is more appropriate for ordering domains with respect 
to their worth, but to symbolize existence in its entirety all 
three dimensions are needed. When St. Paul hoped that the 
Christians of Ephesus would be filled with the fullness of God, 
he prayed that they would be granted power to comprehend 
"the breadth and length, and depth and height" of Christ's 
love (Eph. 3:18), for only so could they know its inclusiveness. 
Our special concern is with the height aspect of his formula- 
tion, but to see how worth figures in being as a whole we 
need to use the symbolism of the other dimensions as well. 


Ren^ Guenon's Symbolism of the Cross must be credited for 
much that we are about to say.^ 

No model is more effective in disclosing the symbolism 
that, is latent in space than a three-dimensional cross, con- 
stituted of a vertical cross pierced at its intersection by a third, 
longitudinal arm running at right angles to the other two. The 
construct can also be seen as deriving from the imposition of 
a horizontal cross on a vertical one, in which case the model 
symbolizes not only reality — its meaning that concerns us here 
— but also, in passing, the meeting of East and West, for the 
Asian counterpart of the upright Christian cross is one that 
is typically inscribed on the ground. Such a horizontal cross 
is a mandala, a sacred enclosure, round or square, with 
typically four approaches to a "hidden treasure" that lies at 
its center. The diagram is, of course, universal: the Garden of 
Eden with its four rivers converging on the Tree of Life at 
its center is a mandala, as is the New Jerusalem in the Book 
of Revelation with its twelve gates— small entrances flanking 
each of the four principal ones are common in mandalic lay- 
outs. But though mandalas cover the globe, Asia has worked 
with them more intensively than has the West. Often they are 
paintings that are hung on walls, but their basic position in 
Asia is, to repeat, horizontal, as in the ground plans of Angkor 
Wat and the stupa at Boroboedoer, the room-size butter 
mandalas the Tibetans build for feast days, or the patterns 
Indian women inscribe on floors and courtyards with rice flour. 
Pare such a horizontal mandala to its essential geometry of 
two lines that intersect at right angles and mount this horizon- 
tal cross on a vertical. Christian cross to make one having six 
arms like the "pickup jacks" that children play with; the 
vertical cross should be of Eastern Orthodox design so the six 
arms can be of equal length and the center truly central. The 
result is a three-dimensional cross, the most adequate model of 
reality that space can provide. 

Let us begin with its vertical axis. As the axis mundi it 

2- London: Luzac & Company, 1958. 


intersects all the planes of existence and ranks them in ontolo- 
gical hierarchy, the hierarchy of being and worth. Of the 
planes thus traversed, our model shows but one, the one 
represented by its horizontal arms. This is as it should be, for 
our own plane is the only one we can see. But if we possessed 
metaphysical eyes we would see arms protruding from all the 
points the vertical axis registers. 

How many planes there are, we do not know. The levels of 
nature that science discriminates give us no clue, for these all 
pertain to size which, being an aspect of space, belongs to our 
plane only. (We discount as irrelevant for present purposes 
the peculiar modes of space we experience when dreaming.) 
The entire size-continuum, from minutest particle to our 26- 
billion-light-year universe, falls along the horizontal arms we 
see. The planes that bracket this central one — central from 
our point of view — may be indefinite in number, but even 
if they are, something can be said about their antipodes. As the 
levels of reality array themselves along the vertical axis in 
descending degrees of reality, reality being (as noted in the 


preceding chapter) worth's final criterion, the bottom of the 
arm represents the point — a fraction of a degree above absolute 
zero as we might say — where being phases out completely; all 
that could lie beyond this margin is a nothing that is as un- 
thinkable as it is nonexistent. The top of the axis represents 
the opposite of this, that is, everything. Opposites being well 
acquainted, this everything shares in common with its anti- 
thesis the fact that it too cannot be imaged, but unlike 
complete nothingness it can be conceived. Being we experi- 
ence, whereas nothingness, by itself, we do not. The zenith of 
being is Being Unlimited, Being relieved of all confines and 
conditionings. The next chapter will discuss it; for now we 
simply name it. It is All-Possibility, the Absolute, the In-finite 
in all the directions that word can possibly point. 

Returning to the horizontal arms that denote the human 
plane, the transverse or lateral arm represents space and by 
extension the amplitude of possibilities it can contain. The 
longitudinal arm, in turn — the one that extends toward the 
viewer and away from him — ^represents time; from its center, 
the present, its stretches backward toward an indefinite past 
and forward toward an open and unlimited future. Inching 
forward along this longitudinal arm with time's passage, the 
lateral arm represents at each point all the possibilities that 
could in principle transpire at that moment in time on our 
particular plane of existence. If we could see the past and the 
future, lateral arms would spring from every point on the 
longitudinal line and convert the horizontal arms of the^cross 
into a plane. And if to such time-consciousness were added the 
metaphysical omniscience posited earlier — the capacity to per- 
ceive all the levels of being that exist — we would see that the 
horizontal, space-time plane is only a section of a cube. Or 
rather, because a circle encloses more space for the length of its 
perimeter than does a square and amplitude is our object, a 
sphere does better than a cube as our final image for being's 

From the infinite sphere toward which the arms of the cross 


point, let us now contract our attention to the center from 
which the arms protrude. In intersecting at this center the 
arms symbolize resolution, a principle which for spiritual 
existence is decisive. 

Two kinds of resolution are represented. The first of these 
is the union of complements. Things that are complementary 
differ from each other, and the differences can produce ten- 
sions and even open warfare. But the differences can also 
"come together," as the convergence of the horizontal and 
vertical arms indicates. In intersecting, the arms of the vertical 
cross form, as it were, a Western yin-yang. The vertical line 
represents most obviously the male or active principle and the 
horizontal line the female, receptive one, but any complement- 
ing aspects of existence can be substituted. Complements differ 
inimitably; this fact the arms register by diverging at right 
angles with their extremities moving increasingly apart. They 
need not be at odds, however, for at base — in the mathematical 
point where they intersect — they are identical. 

If the intersection of the horizontal and vertical axes of the 
vertical cross represents the union of complements, the meet- 
ing of the right and left arms of its horizontal axis represents 
the resolution of opposites. The horizontal and vertical axes 
form a right angle, but the angle formed by the outbranchings 
of the two halves of the horizontal axis is 180 degrees. In 
protruding in directions that are diametrically opposed^ these 
halves represent alternatives that are irreconcilable: forced 
options, excluded middles, dilemmas with horns on them, 
decisions that are either/or. Complements can coexist, and the 
problem is how to harmonize them; opposites are exclusive, 
and the problem is which to choose. Monogamous or polyg- 
amous; one may be either but not both simultaneously. 
Choices of this kind can be agonizing, as the tension in the 
thrusts of the right and left arms illustrates; they can tear a 
man apart. But at the point from which left and right diverge, 
this tension too is stilled, the message being that insofar as 
one leads a centered life, tensions disappear. Aristotelian con- 


tradictories do indeed preclude a middle, but the converse of 
this truth is that when the middle appears, contradictories 
cease to be such. Their logical exclusiveness may remain, but 
the existential tension goes out of them. "Oppositions . . . 
cease to affect the being who has reduced his ego to nothing" 
(Too Te Ching). 

Union of Complements Resolution of Opposites 

Existentially, then, the cross's center represents the point 
where complements unite and opposites are resolved. Mean- 
while ontologically it is the "here and now" from which time 
and space protrude. Clearly this point merits attention. 

All space condenses into the mathematical point. Collapsed 
successively, a three-dimensional cube becomes a two-dimen- 
sional plane, a two-dimensional plane a one-dimensional line, 
a one-dimensional line a mathematical point. By the s»ame 
token, all space proceeds from the mathematical point. Its 
movement in a single direction produces a line; movement of 
this line at right angles to itself produces a plane; movement 
of the plane at right angles to itself produces a cube. Geometry 
derives from the mathematical point. 

But this brings us to something interesting. Source of all 
space, the mathematical point is itself spaceliess. The smallest 
unit of space is not the Euclidean point which, as a position 
without dimensions, occupies no space whatever. The smallest 
distance possible is the distance between two such points that 


are immediately adjacent; smaller than this is no distance what- 
ever. Extension is the expanse between two simultaneously 
existing points, but the points themselves are not parts of the 
spatial continuum, though the distance they "produce" re- 
quires that they be conceived as situated within space. The 
true spatial element is not the point but distance. 

Symbolically this is exact, for the human plane, woven of 
space, derives from a transworldly source where space is not. 
Asked if there is life after death, Martin Buber replied, "There 
is no after, for time is but a crystallization in the mind of 
God." Space as well. Space derives from nonspace, if this 
expression does not seem too peculiar and unusual. "Out of 
that which is not, He made that which is. He carved great 
columns from the impalpable ether" (The Kabbalah). Equally 
— this was Buber's point — time derives from nontime. The 
six days of creation correspond to the six arms of our cross. 
On the seventh day God returns to the point from which his 
actions began. On the seventh day he rested. 

This brings us back to the vertical axis of the cross, which 
registers degrees of reality, for something that is aloof from 
space and time, eluding both their confines and their sepa- 
rations, obviously exceeds the world our senses report. In the 
next chapter the higher planes of reality will occupy us in some 
detail, but for the present we need note only the one at the 
top. The supreme plane from which the vertical axis descends 
is the Infinite: Being exempt from every mode of limitation 
and restriction. From this pinnacle all lesser being derives. 
We can picture the vertical axis as a line which, tapping into 
the infinite reservoir of Being at its summit, transmits a 
portion of its store to the subordinate planes, which by dint 
of this transfusion "materialize." Each successively lower plane 
receives a smaller allotment, not because Being becomes pro- 
gressively depleted — the reservoir, we recall, is infinite — but 
because every grade of finitude must be actualized. Were any 
omitted, they would gape as holes, so to speak, depriving 
existence of the completeness the Infinite requires by name 


and possesses in fact. In alternative imagery the conduit is the 
Celestial Ray of the world's mythologies, connecting the sun 
to each entity in the universe it illumines. Geometrically the 
vertical axis is a mathematical line which, having no width, 
intersects the human plane through the mathematical point 
in the cross's center. Through this point which, being space- 
less, is unimplicated in the world it empowers, there flows from 
the Infinite the measure of being that is earth's allotment. In 
the act of flooding the human plane, being dons the categories 
we know: space, time, and matter. And this is the meaning 
of our earth's existence: to actualize reality in its own dis- 
tinctive fashion, according to its allotted categories. For this 
middling mode of existence— partly real, partly not — is pos- 
sible, and being possible must be, that the scheme of things be 
truly entire. 

If we may postulate a microsecond preceding the moment 
with which the astronomers' story begins — the moment some 
13 billion years ago when a superdense kernel of matter began 
the explosion that they say is still creating our universe — 
the natural order may literally have derived from a mathe- 
matical point at its core.^ Be this as it may, the metaphysical 
origin of the physical universe as recounted in the preceding 
paragraphs is paralleled by the origination of the human soul. 
As without, so within; the man/world isomorphism which we 
shall note repeatedly in this study swings again into view. For 
the point at the center of the three-dimensional cross ^hat 
gives rise to the order of nature concomitantly creates the 
souls that inhabit that order, not just in the moment of their 
conception but continuously, instant by instant as they pursue 
their trajectories. Or to speak more precisely (and in doing so 
to anticipate two chapters hence), the mathematical point at 
the center of the three-dimensional cross is likewise each soul's 

3. "The universe did not necessarily begin with the big bang. . . . Our 
universe, however, did begin with the primordial explosion, since we can 
obtain no information about events that occurred before it." David 
Schramm, "The Age of the Elements," Scientific American, CCXXX, 1 
(Jan. 1974), 70. 


center,* If it strikes the reader as presumptuous to equate his 
personal center with the center of the cosmos, he must be 
reminded that physics requires him to do just that; because 
space is relative and curved, the center of the physical uni- 
verse is for each observer the point from which his observations 
proceed. If, still incredulous, still resisting the notion that the 
center of his self is in some way identical with that of creation 
at large — have we not learned the lesson of Copernicus? — the 
reader continues to try to position himself marginally by 
arguing that a single center cannot occupy 4 billion bodies 
simultaneously, he forgets that the spatial distinctions he has 
introduced have no bearing on the mathematical point which, 
as we have seen, produces space without being implicated in 
it. The Hermetic formulation is exact: "God is a sphere whose 
center is everywhere and circumference nowhere." At the top 
of the mountain Black Elk reported that he was at the center 
of the universe. "But," he added, "that center is everywhere." 
According to Buddhism, there is a Buddha in every grain of 

As the all-empowering but impalpable essence that creates 
each snowfiake of existence and causes it to settle in its own 
proper place, the mathematical point is in everything. Kab- 
balists call it the Inward or Holy Palace; in Islam it is the 
Divine Station that combines contrasts and antinomies. In 

4. "Know the embodied soul to be a part of the hundredth part of the 
point of a hair divided a hundred times; and yet it is infinite." Svetasvatara 
Upanishad, V.9. 

This juxtaposition of the infinitesimal and the infinite underscores the 
fact that symbols, being fragmentary, can never capture more than an 
aspect of their referents. What escapes the -symbol of the mathematical 
point is the truth that it is infinitely greater than the selves and universe 
that derive from it. "It therefore needs to be complemented at the back 
of our minds by another circle whose center stands for this world and 
whose circumference symbolizes the All-Surrounding Infinite." Martin 
Lings, What Is Sufism? (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), p. 
22 — see figure on p. 61 below. Meister Eckhart invokes the symbolism of 
this second circle when he writes: "The soul that enters into God owns 
neither time nor space. . . . But it stands to reason, if you consider it, 
that the space occupied by any soul is vastly greater than heaven and 
earth and God's entire creation. I say more: God might make heavens and 
earths galore yet these . . . would be of less extent than a single needle-tip 
compared with the standpoint of a soul atoned in God." 


China it is the Chung Yung, the Invariable Middle, the Taoist 
Void that unites the spokes and makes of them a wheel. 
Though nothing could exist without it, in the realm of the 
Ten Thousand Things only man can be aware of it and 
identify with it intentionally. The awareness can be cultivated 
directly through meditation or indirectly through the "medita- 
tion of everyday life," which aims at reducing the tension 
between the contraries of human existence. Practicing detach- 
ment, the aspirant undercuts the vicissitudes of the stream of 
forms and attains peace in emptiness. To connote the point 
where the opposites of space and time are resolved, Blake wrote 
of "infinity in the palm of your hand / And eternity in an 
hour"; the phrase "holy indifference," for its part, tokens the 
fact that in that selfsame point the opposition between good 
and evil likewise collapses: 

One to me is fame and shame, 
One to me is loss and gain,* 
One to me is pleasure, pain. 


Passage through the "gateless gate" (Mu Mon Kan) that guards 
the holy center can be disorienting. If it takes the form of a 
powerful satori it can feel as if one has been sucked into a 
"black hole" where physical laws are destroyed. When eyes 
have accustomed themselves to the new, ethereal light, how- 
ever, one sees that no movement has occurred. Length and 
breadth had already withdrawn into the cross's horizontal 
center; now the vertical axis too collapses. Renouncing the 
space it had embodied to make an important but provisional 
point, that axis now withdraws the ontic, value distinctions 
that once it metered. Sub species aeternitatis phenomena are 
themselves noumena; samsara, nirvana. 

The perfect way knows no difficulties 
Only it refuses to make distinctions. 
A hair's breadth's difference 
And heaven and hell are set apart. 



Centered in the mathematical point, a non-ego is immune 
to space and can be where it wishes. "Let us but transport 
ourselves in spirit outside this world of dimensions and local- 
izations, and there will no longer be need to seek the abode 
of the Tao," Chuang Tzu tells us (XXII). Transport accom- 
plished, the sage, even while in the flux of things, is at the 
crux of things. Established in its Unwobbling Pivot, his way of 
being in the world is wu wet. Literally "nonaction," the word 
does not require that actions cease. Superfluous and ego- 
aggrandizing activity must be stilled, but the stilling of such 
activity clears the way for pure effectiveness — action that is 
powered by force that is concentrated and energy assembled. 
Far from rendering it ineffectual, the tendency of this second 
kind of action to "fit in" and avoid calling attention to itself 
augments its power. "By his simplicity, the absolutely simple 
man sways all beings. . . . Nothing opposes him in the six 
regions of space, nothing is hostile to him, and fire and water 
do not harm him" {Tao Te Ching, II). Nothing that comes 
out of the spaceless point can touch the person who is cen- 
tered within it.** Opposing nothing, nothing can oppose him, 
for opposition is a reciprocal relationship that requires two 
terms, which is precisely what unity disallows. Hostility, which 
is but a consequence or outward manifestation of opposition, 
can neither proceed from nor be directed toward a being who 
is beyond all opposition. "Fire and water" in the passage 
cited stand for the contraries of the phenomenal world; they 
cannot harm the Simple Man because for him, as contraries, 
they no longer exist. Neutralizing each other through the 
union of their seemingly opposed but "actually complementing 
attributes, they have reentered the undifferentiation of the 
primordial ether. Thus the viewpoint of the Simple Man 

is one at which this and that, yes and no, appear still in a state of 
non-distinction. This point is the Pivot of the Law; it is the 
motionless center of a circumference on the rim of which all con- 

5. "When men shajl roll up space as if it were a piece of hide, then 
shall there be an end of human misery" (Svetasvatara Upanishad). 


tingencies, distinctions and individualities revolve. From it only 
Infinity is to be seen, which is neither this nor that, nor yes 
nor no. To see all in the yet undifferentiated primoridal unity, 
or from such a distance that all melts into one, this is true in- 
telligence. Chuang Tzu 

That which Chuang Tzu calls the Pivot, we, following 
Gu^non, have called the mathematical point. T. S. Eliot 
celebrated it in lines that have become familiar: 

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; 
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, 
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity. 
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from 
nor towards. 

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point. 
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.^ 

But for the way the cross as a whole, not just its center, can 
vibrate, our mind goes to Pascal. Mathematician, scientist, 
philosopher, inventor, whose prose is one of the great glories 
of France, he could find only incoherent words to describe the 
disclosure that came to him one memorable night; 

In the year of grace 1654, Monday 23 November, the day of St. 
Clement, Pope and Martyr, and others in the Martyrology; the eve 
of St. Chrysostomous, Martyr, and others; from about half-past ten 
in the evening till about half an hour after midnight 


God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob. Not of the philoso- 
phers and the learned. Certitude. Certitude. Emotion. Joy . . . Joy! 
Joy! Joy! Tears of Joy . . . My God ... let me not be separated 
from thee for ever. 

Above this record of his experience, which he kept always on 
his person, was a rough drawing of a blazing cross. Two- 
dimensional, but for a Christian, planted unambiguously in 
Western Europe, it sufficed. 

6. "Four Quartets: Burnt Norton," The Complete Poems and Plays, 
1909-1950 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1952), p. 119. 

Nor was it above my mind as oil above the 
water it floats on, nor as the sky is above earth; 
it was above because it made me, and I was below 
because made by it. 

AUGUSTINE, Confessions, VII, 10 

5. TIhe LeveIs of ReaI'ity 

In the opening chapter of this book we argued that the 
triumphs of modern science went to man's head in something 
of the way rum does, causing him to grow loose in his logic. 
He came to think that what science discovers somehow casts 
doubt on things it does not discover; that the success it 
realizes in its own domain throws into question the reality of 
domains its devices cannot touch. In short, he came to assume 
that science implies scientism: the belief that no realities save 
ones that conform to the matrices science works with — space, 
time, matter/energy, and in the end number — exist. 

It was not always so, but today a sadness comes over us aS 
we think back over the way this reductio leveled the world 
view that preceded it. Traditionally men had honored, even 
venerated, their ancestors as being essentially wiser than them- 
selves because closer to the source of things. Now forefathers 
came to be regarded as "children of the race," laboring under 
children's immaturity. Their ens perfectissimum was a mirage, 
a wish-fulfilling security blanket spun of thin air to com- 
pensate for the hardships of real life. Or alternatively, their 
convictions regarding the human soul were opiates invented by 
the privileged to quiet, as if by lobotomy, those who without 
them might press for a fair share of the world's perquisites. 

Reviewing the way the new evicted the old — myopia parad- 
ing as vision, eternity-blindness as enlightenment and the 
dawn of a brighter day — we find our thoughts turning to the 



Native Americans. They too watched a landscape dismantled, 
in their case a physical landscape of almost magical richness. 
Untapped, unravaged, its grains of soil had been to them 
beads in the garment of the Great Spirit; its trees were temple 
pillars, its earth too sacred to be trodden save by soft skin 
moccasins. Across this unparalleled expanse of virgin nature 
there poured hordes possessing a capacity so strange that they 
seemed to the natives they dispossessed to represent a different 
breed: ^ the capacity to look on everything in creation as 
material for exploitation, seeing trees only as timber, deer 
only as meat, mountains as no more than potential quarries. 
For the victims of this "civilizing mission," as the predators 
chose to call their conquest, there could only be, in the words 
of a former U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, a "sadness 
deeper than imagination can hold — sadness of men completely 
conscious, watching the universe being destroyed by a number- 
less and scorning foe." For the Indians "had what the world 
has lost . . . the ancient, lost reverence and passion for human 
personality joined with the ancient, lost reverence and passion 
for the earth and its web of life."^ 

Collier's account emphasizes the quality of sadness rather 
than anger in the Indians' response. Inasmuch as humanity is 
in some way one, the response may have included an element 
of pity for us all. In any case, it appears of a piece with our 
wistfulness as we think of the destruction of the primordial 
world view that occurred concurrently and relatedly through 
scientism's reduction of its qualitative aspects to modalities 
that are basically quantitative. This ontological strip mining 
asked man to sacrifice a good part of that which made for him 

1. Confronted with the novel spectacle of a gorilla in an itinerant circus, 
a Minnesota medicine man, after subjecting himself to an all-night vigil 
in a sweat lodge, delivered himself of his judgment. "That," he said, "is 
a cross between a white man and a cat." Related to the author by a French 
student of the Ojibways, Jean-Louis Michon. 

2. John Collier, Indians of the Americas (New York: Mentor Books, 
1947), pp. 104, 7; quoted in Gai Eaton, "Man as Viceroy," Studies in 
Comparative Religion, Autumn 1973. We are indebted to the latter article 
for a number of thoughts on the present subject. 


the reality of the world — its beauty, its holiness and crucial 
expanses of truth — in return for a mathematical scheme whose 
prime advantage was to help man manipulate matter on its 
own plane. The discontinuous character of number ordained 
in advance that such a predominantly quantitative approach 
would miss the immense tissue of being, its side that consists 
of pure continuity and relations kept necessarily in balance. 

In point of fact, however, continuity and equilibrium exist 
before discontinuity and crisis; they are more real than these 
latter and incomparably more precious. But this the modern 
mind has forgotten. In the face of its lapse, logic can do no 
more. Short of a historical breakdown which would render 
routine ineffectual and force us to attend again to things that 
matter most, we wait for art; for metaphysicians who, imbued 
with that species of truth that is beauty in its mental mode, 
are (like Plato) concomitantly poets. By irradiating the human 
imagination that has atrophied in this kali yuga, this age of 
iron, such men might restore to it the supple, winged condi- 
tion it requires if it is to come within light-years of Truth. 
They might return to our inner eye — almost, one might say, 
to our sense of touch — ontological spaces we have forgotten 
exist, landscapes crowded with presences the knowing of which 
can turn men into saints.^ If the "remembrance of things past" 
they conjured were vivid enough for us to enter it as con- 
fidently as we step out of our front doors, we might, as we 
have said, rejoin the human race. For to reverse an earlier 
image, epistemologically their work would be archaeological: 
a stripping back of deposits of scientistic pseudoinferences that 
hide the contours, extravagant but defined, of the primordial 
outlook whose regions appear largely as blanks in the cos- 
mologies modernity has reduced to cosmography. 

3. Though few in number, such metaphysicians already exist. For our 
part, we have found them concentrated among the contributors to a 
small but luminous journal, Studies in Comparative Religion (Pates Manor, 
Bedford, Middlesex, England). Jacob Needleman has collected selected 
essays from this journal into a book titled The Sword of Gnosis (Balti- 
more: Penguin Books^ 1974). 


Archaeology is an appropriate metaphor for the inward 
probe toward reality, and this we shall come to in the next 
chapter. For the present, however, we shall table our natural 
interest in how the levels appear in man and establish their 
existence in their own right. This calls for reverting to out- 
bound, stratospheric imagery, a mounting of the vertical arm 
of the three-dimensional cross as it pierces through "cloud- 
lands" — in the last resort they are all maya — to the apex that 
alone is fully real, the Infinite. 

Disregarding domains that are inferior to our own and 
therefore lie below the horizontal arm of the cross, common 
numbering of the worlds is threefold: terrestrial, intermediary, 
and celestial. Beyond these three lies a fourth domain that is 
discontinuous with the others. Not itself a world, it is the 
Infinite which is their uncreated source. 

/. The Terrestrial Plane 

We begin with the terrestrial plane, which alternatively we 
shall call the gross, the material, the sensible, the corporeal, 
the phenomenal, or the human plane. Strictly speaking, the 
last of these appellations is a misnomer, because, as we have 
mentioned in passing already and will consider in detail in 
the next chapter, man in the fullness of his being intersects 
the planes in their entirety. Even so, the designation is con- 
venient, for the plane in question is the one we are most 
directly in touch with. Its distinctive categories are space, 
time, energy/matter, and number, the last being a mode to 
which the first three lend themselves. 

Four is a schematization, of course, for the actual number is 
(as we have said) indefinite. And because the four are in 
reality classes, we can expect subdivisions to appear in each. 
These are most apparent on the terrestrial plane, where 
animal, vegetable, and mineral demarcate themselves ob- 
viously; the other planes are difficult enough to see in over- 
view without trying to read the fine print. On the terrestrial 


plane an upper, border region announces itself in the data 
that frontier physics encounters. Such data belong to the 
terrestrial world inasmuch as they continue to participate in 
some way in space, time, and matter/energy as quantifiable, 
but the way in which they so participate is, to say the least, 
peculiar. In this twilight border region, parallel lines con- 
verge, things relocate without traversing space, and particles 
have only probable positions. Phenomena are beginning to 
phase out of the grossly physical. The terrestrial announces its 
dependence on the plane above it. 

2. The Intermediate Plane 

This next plane up is named, neutrally, the intermediate.* 
Alternatively we shall refer to it as the subtle, the animic,^ 
or the psychic plane, inasmuch as it is often encountered in 
phantasms that have no sensible counterparts. 

These phantasms can be animate or inanimate: the plane 
houses both. Those that are animate are the various species of 

4. The term goes back to Plato's to metaxy, a view which Paul Fried- 
lander says "must have been of the utmost significance to him. It is the 
idea or view of 'the demonic' as a realm 'intermediate' between the human 
level and the divine, a realm that because of its intermediate position 
'unites the cosmos with itself.' " Plato, Vol. I An Introduction (London: 
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958), p. 41; see Republic, X614c. Thomas 
Aquinas's general formulation of the point is as follows: "Ordo rerum 
talis esse invenitur, ut ab uno extremo ad alterum non perveniatur nisi 
per media"; the order of reality is found to be such that it is impossible 
to reach one end from the other without passing through the middle. 

For a global depiction of this level of existence, see Edward Conze, "The 
Intermediary World," The Eastern Buddhist, VI, 2 (Oct. 1974). Beginning 
with the statement that "the spiritual tradition of mankind has every- 
where and at all times taught that there is a triple world, the natural 
world, the spiritual world, and a world intermediary between the two" 
(p. 23), Conze proceeds to focus on this middle sphere as it appears in his 
special field of scholarship. Buddhism. "A belief in the existence of an 
intermediary world is attested in all Buddhist scriptures a thousand times. 
No Buddhist community has ever been without it. It is also, incidentally, 
reflected in the trikaya doctrine [of the] three ways of looking at a 
Buddha" (p. 24). 

5. We are forced to this neologism because the word "animistic" has 
come to be identified with a doctrine. 


discarnates: ghosts; departed souls that are provisionally in 
limbo, or traversing the intermediate bardos (planes), as the 
Tibetans would say; the "controls" that spiritualists and 
mediums claim to be in touch with insofar as their claims are 
valid; and our own subtle bodies (suksma-sarira) insofar as 
they are disengaged, as in sleep, from their gross, exterior 
envelopes. These subtle bodies are often called "etheric" or 
"astral," and their adventures — central to shamanism — de- 
scribed as astral projections, but we must remember that 
spatial imagery never fits precisely on planes above our own. 
The highest planes contain no literal space whatever. The 
intermediate plane is spatial in a way, but the way differs 
markedly from that of terrestrial space: the peculiarities that 
we just noted in post-Newtonian physics derive from the fact 
that its novelties are first steps in the direction of space of 
the intermediary order. All this must be kept in mind when 
we hear talk of astral projection and the dream journeys of 
shamans. As with everything on the higher planes, such notions 
become absurd if we force them into terrestrial armor, a 
costuming that in this case generates pictures of psychic pellets 
slipping through dermal pores to rocket this way or that to 
who knows what fantastic wonderlands. The truth at issue 
will emerge if we balance such astronautical images with 
opposing ones in which the subtle body remains securely 
within its corporeal sheath while time and space wash through 
it, and its indriyic net — indriyas: subtle correlates of our 
physical sense organs (Sanskrit) — selects the information it 
seeks. Or let the explanatory model be ESP, the psychic coun- 
terpart of gravitation's action at a distance. This eliminates 
spatial imagery altogether. 

Passing to the impersonal furniture of the psychic plane, 
we encounter most importantly the archetypes.^ Their actual 

6. The word compounds notions of (a) antiquity, as in "archaeololgy," 
and by extension timelessness or primordiality; (b) superlative rank or 
status, as in "archduke" and "archbishop"; and (c) norm or exemplar, 
from the Greek arketupon, meaning "that which was created as a pattern, 
mold, or model." 


abode is on the next plane up, but lower planes derive from 
the higher, so the archetypes appear on the subtle plane as 
reflections of their originals — each world in creation is no 
more than a tissue of shadows entirely dependent on the 
archetypes in the world above, phenomena being (as we might 
say) divine qualities eroded in an illusory manner by nothing- 
ness. Thus the archetypes turn up on the terrestrial plane as 
well, in the "forms" that shape objects out of a matter that 
would otherwise be inchoated On the subtle plane which we 
are currently considering, however, we encounter them more 
directly, though not yet unalloyed. 

When on the next plane we do find them in their un- 
alloyed state, they turn out to be Plato's Forms or Ideas, but 
here on the intermediate plane they stand closer to the arche- 
types Jung explored. The images he found recurring in the 
dreams of his patients coincided to such a degree with the 
world's mythologies (of which his patients were largely inno- 
cent) that he concluded that the symbols themselves must 
reside in man's collective unconscious. But not passively — 
not as colors on a painter's palette, to be dipped into for the 
artist's needs. They have an energy of their own, sufficient to 
have caused Jung to regard them as the psychic counterparts 
of biological instincts. Physically man's life is vectored by his 
biological drives; psychically it is molded by the surging 
pressure of the archetypes. In the end Jung risked a further 
correlation. The archetypes seemed close enough to the pat- 
terns he saw emerging in the theories and experiments of 
twentieth-century physics for him to conclude that archetypes 
are psychoid. By this he meant that they shape matter (nature) 
as well as mind (psyche). They transcend the split between 
these two and are neutral toward it, favoring neither one side 
nor the other.* 

7. If one must try for metaphors, archetypes may be likened to invisible 
magnetic fields which iron filings visibly conform to. Archetypes prescribe 
the kind of experience we shall have, but what we experience is individual. 

8. If Jung had seen this early in his career and based his psychology 
squarely upon it, his thought could have been in line with the primordial 


This account has a double virtue. First, it establishes the 
fact that the intermediate plane governs the terrestrial plane 
in its entirety, its corporeal as well as its psychic aspects; to 
underscore the completeness of its suzerainty, Sufis call it the 
Domain of Royalty (malakut). The Indian notion of siddhis — 
yogic powers, certain of which can influence external bodies 
directly, in psychokinesis as we would say — moves in the same 
direction, as does the concept of magic as the action of subtle 
force on corporeal matter. 

The second respect in which Jung's notion of archetypes 
is appropriate here is in the justice it does to their formative 
powers; they "create" or project forth the terrestrial plane, 
which is no more than their exterior covering. Several times 
in this study we have inveighed against reductionism, but let 
us be clear. Its error does not lie in its attempt to understand 
one type of reality in terms of another. Virtually all explana- 
tion proceeds in this fashion, and explanation is needed, for 
true reality is never the most obvious; one might almost say 
that one of the ways truth betrays the fact that it is such is in 
the care it takes to remain elusive, if one may put the matter 
paradoxically. The mistake of reductionism — spirit reduced to 
metamorphosed matter (Darwinism), truth reduced to ideology 
(Marxism), psyche reduced to sex (Freud: there is no way "to 
sweeten the sour apple") — lies in its attempt to explain the 
greater in terms of the less, with the not surprising con- 
sequence that the greater is thereby lessened. It is this, at 
root, that sets us against the modern outlook and turns us 
back toward tradition where the drift is always the reverse: to 

tradition. As it was, his psychoid thesis was an addendum — one, moreover, 
that his followers have resisted, preferring on the whole his standard 
contention that archetypes derive from the collective unconscious that 
has evolved in the course of human evolution. This, Jung's prevailing 
contention, was part and parcel of his lifelong struggle to have his theories 
accepted as scientific, a struggle that produced not only inconsistencies 
in his "system," but his own version of psychological reductionism; see 
Titus Burckhardt, "Cosmology and Modern Science," in Needleman, 
The Sword of Gnosis, pp. 153-78. In quoting Jung approvingly, we must 
be selective. 


explain the lesser by means of the more, a mode of explanation 
that tends to augment rather than deplete, for in both cases 
explanation produces a kind of rub-off. The terrestrial plane 
proceeds from and is explained by the intermediate, the inter- 
mediate by the celestial, and the celestial by the Infinite. 
Thus everything derives, ultimately, from the Infinite. And 
since "derives" cannot in this last case involve separation — 
the Infinite is like a celestial void: nothing escapes from it — 
everything abides in the Infinite's luster.^ 

We tend to think of mind as an epiphenomenon, as a gloss 
on matter with spirit a patina on that gloss. The truth is the 
reverse. Matter is the rarity; it obtrudes from the psychic with 
perhaps the frequency of a few stalactites from the roof of an 
enormous cavern. Or it is like our earth and its planets — 
tiny bits of matter floating in an ocean of space. Our lives are 
plunged in the animic world like crystals floating in a liquid, 
though appearances make us suppose that the animic is 
within our bodies or behind the physical shell of things. This 
supposition causes us to underrate the mental. Apart from the 
fact that it closes the door on the domain to which magic 
pertains, it again makes the higher depend on the lower and 
keeps us from seeing the faculties that make man distinctively 
human in their full extent. 

This holds not only when these faculties are in working 
order, but when they are not.^° Insanity is now regarded as 
"mental illness": we place its victims in hospitals and pity 
them in the way we do those who have lost their bodily health. 
(The victims themselves often dispute this assessment, of 
course, but they are the ones who are mad, so their judgment is 

9. "All primordial men . . . saw the 'more' in the 'less,' in the sense 
that the landscape was for them a reflection of a superior reality which 
'contained' the physical reality; they added, may one say, to the latter, a 
'spiritual dimension' which escapes modem man." (Francois Petitpierre, 
"The Symbolic Landscape of the Muiscas," Studies in Comparative Re- 
ligion, Winter 1975, p. 48). 

10. On this subject we are again indebted to Gai Eaton's "Man as 


discounted.) In point of fact, however, insanity is seldom 
simply a lack. We recognize this, despite the changes we have 
effected in vocabulary, in the fear that insanity, unlike disease, 
continues to inspire within us, the inkling of strange seas beat- 
ing against the shores of our familiar island. A man may have 
"lost his reason" only to have had it replaced, for better or 
worse, by something else. Rarely is he simply reduced like an 
amputee, and when we treat him as such he feels deeply if 
obscurely insulted even if we are insensitive to our impertin- 

Mindful of the psychic plane and the way the human is 
lodged within it, traditional societies tend to regard the insane 
with a species of awe and respect, seeing them as caught in 
psychic vortices that work at cross-purposes to ours while 
possessing something of the autonomy and coherence that ours 
exhibit. Our madhouses, too, may contain souls that are 
ravaged by principalities and powers on the psychic plane; 
in a word, possessed. The phenomenal response to a recent 
film, The Exorcist, shows that our unconscious minds remain 
open to this notion, but current psychiatric theory is so 
opposed to it that it will be useful to have an example to show 
that there are cases that almost require it.^^ The following 
eyewitness account by Peter Goullart is condensed from his 
book The Monastery of Jade Mountain:^^ 

The energumen, a rather emaciated man of about twenty-five, lay 
on an iron bedstead on a rush mat. He was very pale andr-there 
was a wild, roving look in his fevered eyes. The Taoist priest, hold- 
ing an elongated ivory tablet held ceremonially in both hands in 

11. There is another reason for citing an actual instance: clear cases 
appear to be less common today than in the past. This may be due in 
part to the fact that persons tend to be receptive to what they believe — 
Freudians have a disproportionate number of Freudian dreams — and 
possession does not square with the modem scientific outlook, but there is 
a supplementing possibility. With genocides and the use of nuclear 
weapons to mash entire countrysides, the demonic may now be so diffused 
on the terrestrial plane that it has no need, one almost says no time, to 
put in many "personal appearances" in single individuals. 

12. London: John Murray, 1961, pp. 86-89. 


front of his chest, approached the bed slowly. There was a visible 
transformation on the energumen's face. His eyes were filled with 
malice as he watched the priest's measured advance with a sly 
cunning and hatred. Suddenly he gave a bestial whoop and jumped 
up in his bed, the four attendants rushing to hold him. 

"Nol No! You cannot drive us out. We are two against one. Our 
power is greater than yours." The sentences poured out of the 
energumen's distorted mouth in a strange, shrill voice, which 
sounded mechanical, inhuman — as if pronounced by a parrot. The 
priest looked at the victim intensely, gathering all his inner 
strength; beads of perspiration appeared on his thin face. 

"Come out! Come out! I command you to come out!" He was 
repeating in a strong metallic voice with great force. "I am using 
the power of the One compared to whom you are nothing. In His 
name I command you to come out." Inmobile. he continued to 
focus his powers on the energumen's face. The man was struggling 
in the bed with incredible strength against the four men who held 
him. Animal growls and howls issued from time to time from his 
mouth which became square, his teeth gleaming like the fangs of 
a dog. I had the impression that a pack of wild animals was 
fighting inside his body. Terrible threats poured out of the con- 
torted mouth, now fringed in white foam, and interspersed with 
such incredible obscenities that women had to plug their ears with 
their fingers. 

Again the abbott cried his command to the unseen adversaries to 
leave the prostrate man. There was a burst of horrible laughter 
from the victim's throat and suddenly with a mighty heave of his 
supematurally strengthened arms he threw off the men who held 
him and jumped at the priest's throat like a mad bloodhound. 
But he was over-powered again. This time they bound him with 
ropes and fastened the ends to the bedposts. The abbott, still 
immobile, continued his conjurations in a metallic voice, his eyes 
never leaving the body. With unutterable horror, we saw that it 
began to swell visibly. On and on the dreadful process continued 
until he became a grotesque balloon of a man. 

"Leave him! Leave him!" cried the monk concentrating still 
harder. Convulsion shook the monstrous swollen body. It seemed 
that all the apertures of the body were opened by the unseen 
powers hiding in it and streams of malodorous excreta and effluvia 


flowed on to the gpround in incredible profusion. For an hour 
this continued and then the energumen, resuming his normal size, 
seemed to come to rest, with his eyes watching the unmoved priest 
who was still reading. 

The priest stopped reading; with sweat pouring down his face, 
he backed down to the altar, laid down the tablet and took up the 
ritual sword. Threateningly and commandingly he stood again over 
the energumen. 

"The struggle is useless!" he cried. "Leave him! Leave him in the 
name of the Supreme Power who never meant you to steal this 
man's body!" Another scene of horror evolved itself before our 
dazed eyes. The man on the bed became rigid and his muscles 
seemed to contract, turning him into a figure of stone. Slowly, very 
slowly, the iron bedstead, as if impelled by an enormous weight, 
caved in, its middle touching the ground. The attendants seized 
the inert man by his feet and arms. The weight was such that none 
of them could lift him up and they asked for assistance from the 
onlookers. Seven men could hardly lift him for he was heavy as a 
cast-iron statue. Suddenly he became light again and they put 
him on a wooden bed which had been brought in. A long time 
passed with the abbott reading and commanding interminably. 
At last he sprinkled the inert man with holy water and advanced 
to him again with a sword. His concentration was so deep that he 
did not seem to see anybody. He was utterly exhausted and 
swayed slightly. Two novices came up to support him. 

"I have won!" he cried triumphantly in a strange voice. "Get 
out! Get out!" The energumen stirred and fell into dreadful con- 
vulsions. His eyes rolled up and only the whites were visible. His 
breathing was stertorous and he clawed his body until he Vas 
covered with blood. Foam was issuing from his mouth and a loud 
gurgling sound. 

"Damn you! Damn you!" came a wild scream from the foaming 
lips. "We are going but you shall pay for it with your life." There 
was a terriffic struggle on the bed, the poor man twisting and roll- 
ing like a mortally- wounded snake and his colour changing all the 
time. Suddenly he fell flat on his back and was still. His eyes 
opened. His gaze was normal and he saw his parents who now 
came forward. 

"My parents!" he cried weakly. "Where am I" He was very feeble 


and they carried him out in a specially ordered sedan chair. The 
abbott himself was in a terrible state of prostration and was half- 
carried and half-dragged away by his novices. 

The word "possession" usually, as here, connotes demonic 
possession, and this underscores the fact that the psychic 
plane houses evil as well as good. For the popular mind, which 
(as we have seen) ranks the worlds on the scale of euphoria, 
this fact necessitates splitting the psychic plane in two: lodging 
its beatific components in heavens above the earth and its 
hellish ones in realms below — the effect can be achieved by 
rounding the intermediate plane into a circle that envelops 
the terrestrial plane. But for the reflective mind whose order- 
ing principle is power — and more basically, being — the moral 
and affective differences that loom so large in popular 
thought are secondary. Evil is worse than good, but its power 

can rival it at points, which means thai at these points the two 
are ontically on a par. And if the power in question exceeds 
the terrestrial, this par lies above the terrestrial plane. The 
primordial, Zarathustrian war between the opposites proceeds 

13. This variability — between being and euphoria as the unit of 
measure — explains why certain medieval cosmologists place the hells 
symbolically between heaven and earth, and why in Islam it is said that 
the throne of the devil is to be found between earth and heaven. 


on the intermediate plane; we inherit its spill and backwash. 
Sufis recognize the ambiguous character of the psychic plane 
by calling it God's Footstool — the place where Rigor and 
Mercy, his two feet, reside — whereas the celestial plane is his 
Throne: that plane is beatific throughout, for on his throne 
God sits complete. According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, 
the intermediate bardos (planes) that a soul must traverse 
before it reenters a human body run the full gamut from terror 
to bliss. The opposites they house are the same as those we 
experience here, but there they are experienced more intensely. 
We visit those bardos nightly, the Indians say, when, subtle 
bodies disjoined from gross, we dream. 

A final point about the intermediate plane brings up again 
the place of space and time within it. We have already noted 
that this plane does not elude these categories entirely; for this 
reason it can be classed with the terrestrial plane, the two to- 
gether constituting the manifest world or nature in the inclu- 
sive meaning of these terms. It can even be the object of 
empirical research as in parapsychology and depth psychology, 
though the teeth on the rim of its wheel, so to speak, are 
rather flexible and barely mesh with the cogs of consensual ob- 
jectivity which even these sciences, if they are to be such, must 
honor as the final indices of the real.^^ gut though space and 

14. The modem restriction of the word "nature" to the terrestrial plane 
represents a contraction. The Latin natura is a translation of the Greek 
physis, which "originally encompassed heaven as well as earth.-r-. . . 
Physis means the power that emerges and the enduring realm under its 
sway." Martin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics (Garden City, 
N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1961), p. 12. 

15. Isolated instances of psi phenomena, however dramatic, will never 
convince everyone, for the same reasons that there will never be a knock- 
down proof of a miracle. As for statistics — whether on average the mind, 
or certain minds, can exceed the laws of chance in predicting falls of dice 
or runs of cards — the situation will remain where it has stood since such 
investigations began. The results exceed probability, but so marginally 
(to say nothing of the fact that the probabilities are violated negatively 
as well as positively) that, given legitimate differences of interpretation in 
the logical foundations of statistics themselves, it remains reasonable to 
believe or disbelieve in the powers in question. No more here than any- 
where can the lower prove the existence of the higher on the former's 


time pertain in some ways to the psychic realm, the ways them- 
selves are significantly different from those that hold on the 
gross, corporeal plane. To accommodate the psychic counter- 
parts of the spatio-temporal peculiarities that manifest them- 
selves in frontier physics, Jung coined the word "synchronicity." 
We need not juggle the full theory behind that word; our in- 
terest is in a single point. If Jung was accurate in reporting that 
meaningful "coincidences" — as in Arthur Koestler's The Roots 
of Coincidence — increased for his patients as they became aware 
of the archetypal symbols and situations that were working 
in their lives, this fact supports our present thrust. In addition 
to creating the terrestrial world, the archetypes order it in ways 
that partially exceed its linear laws of causation. 

The Celestial Plane 

The intermediate plane is not a miscellany. It is not even 
enough to say that it is an integrated and ordered whole. One 
must add that it is a conscious whole, for as one mounts the 
levels of being, awareness intensifies and integration increases. 
The subtle state coalesces in its totality in the "universal or 
total soul," as Plotinus called it, though in the terminology we 
are using it is the universal or total mind. As with organs and 
the organisms of which they are members, individual minds 
can be distinguished from the world mind, but they are not 
separate from it. 

The world mind is the supreme expression of the divine in 
the manifest world, but it is far from God's totality. The ques- 

terms, however much on other terms, by other sensibilities, it all but 
bursts with transcendent cargo. The opinion of one of the most respected 
current researchers in parapsychology, 1974-75 president of the Associa- 
tion for Humanistic Psychology, is, on this point, worth quoting. After 
noting that a recent poll of the largely professional readership of the 
British journal The New Scientist found only 3 percent to believe that 
paranormal phenomena are impossible, Stanley Krippner adds: Neverthe- 
less,"psychic phenomena are so fragile and so unpredictable that I believe 
that they are beyond complete control." Psychology Today, Oct. 1973, 
p. 110. 


tion of what more his nature contains carries us to the plane 
above the intermediate, the celestial. 

When a man effects a project — wages a campaign, let us say 
— he is truly present within it. A part of his nature surfaces 
in the campaign, clearer than if we had been left to infer how 
he might have performed in the face of its demands. Even so, 
the undertaking treats us to but a facet of his being. We assume 
that underlying what the person does is the person who does 
those things. In the case in question, he involves himself in the 
campaign, but by no stretch of the imagination can he be 
equated with this involvement. 

Comparably with God. To the end that nothing that is pos- 
sible be left undone — if it were, the Infinite would not be 
such — God actualizes (creates) being in the mode of mutiplicity 
and individuation. In addition he enters and abides in his cre- 
ation — the terrestrial and intermediate planes combined — as 
the mind that organizes and empowers it. All the while he 
transcends his creation and exceeds his involvement with it. 
According to Hindu cosmology, during the nights of Brahma 
in which he sleeps, the terrestrial and intermediate planes van- 
ish completely; the "big bang" reverses — matter vanishes into 
spreading black holes? — leaving nothing for the (no longer 
existing) astronomers to detect. The lower realms, now reab- 
sorbed into the celestial, are shown to have been but episodes 
in the divine expanse.^^ 

Mystics, endowed with the "eye of the heart," can intuit this 
celestial expanse; others must rely on reports or inferences. 
Regarding the last of these, we have noted more than once that 
unaided logic can infer nothing regarding higher realms from 
ones that have been severed from them completely — realms 
viewed only in terms of what excludes them from ones that are 
higher: the externality of their components, their fragmentari- 

16. "Our world is but a furtive and almost accidental coagulation of an 
immense 'beyond,' which one day will burst forth and in which the 
terrestrial world will be reabsoi-bed when it has completed its cycle of 
material coagulation." Frithjof Schuon, Logic and Transcendence (New 
York: Harper & Row, 1975), p. 94. 


ness, their incorrigible limitations. But if a lower plane is 
viewed through the eyes of what might be called "ontic sensi- 
bility,"^'^ it is noticed that the plane is illumined. Seeking 
the source of its illumination, sight turns upward and logic 
perceives the contours of the planes from which the illumina- 
tion issues. 

Such "ontological logic" points invariably toward greater 
being and less division. Thus the celestial plane dwarfs the 
ones below it in the plenitude of its existence and at the same 
time is less fragmented. Multiplicity reduces in its case to the 
basic kinds of existents, the archetypes; we encountered them 
in a derivative mode on the intermediate plane, but come now 
upon the originals which, combining and recombining, give 
form and structure to the worlds below. 

To us these "universals," as they are sometimes called, seem 
abstract, for in the phenomenal world we never encounter 
beauty, say, by itself but only as a property of concrete things 
that are beautiful. However, to regard objects as concrete and 
their properties abstract is like calling water spray concrete and 
wetness abstract. Objects are ephemeral, qualities endure; the 
qualities we encounter in tangible objects are fragile attenua- 
tions of the intense, undiluted, and stable condition the arche^ 
types enjoy in their own right, on their own plane. In addition 
to archetypes of single qualities, there are archetypes that are 
combinations of these. A species is an instance. Roses come 
from Roseness, which is incomparably rhore real than the flow- 
ers that line the garden walk. 

The celestial plane can be viewed impersonally, in which 
case the archetypes are, as we noted earlier by way of anticipa- 

17. The intuitive discernment that (a) nothing can arise without a 
cause, (b) causes are greater than their effects, (c) the greater is more 
integrated, and (d) the sequence of greaters cannot stop short of the 
Greatest, the Infinite. "The role of the sage is not — as in the radically mis- 
taken view of Europeans — to explain things from zero and to construct a 
system, but firstly to 'see' and secondly to 'cause to see,' that is, to pro- 
vide a key." Frithjof Schuon, Islam and the Perennial Philosophy (Lon- 
don: World of Islam Festival Publishing Company Ltd, 1976), p. 149. 


don, the Platonic forms; viewed collectively, as comprising and 
implying one another, they constitute the Idea of the Good. 
It is more natural, however, to use personal imagery, for of 
things we directly know, persons are the best, and as we ascend 
the ladder of reality, value keeps step with being. Even Plato 
uses personal terms when in the Sophist he has the Eleatic 
stranger attribute to the "friends of the forms" the view that 
the forms are alive. Plotinus in typical fashion converts Plato's 
allusion into settled fact: the forms are unequivocally alive, 
which makes the Intelligence that comprehends them even 
more so. In conventional terminology the celestial plane is the 
abode of God Transcendent: God before he creates the world 
and the fullness of God that exceeds his creation after he has 
accomplished it. It goes without saying that God's nature is 
integrated, but this does not keep it from being composed of 
attributes. It is meaningful to speak of his love, his will, his 
judgment, his mercy, and the like.^^ 

We are obviously here in the realm of theism in its classic 
Western sense. The celestial sphere is the sphere of the personal 
God. God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob rather than of the 
philosophers, he creates the world by deliberate intent, presides 
over history providentially, and knows and loves his creatures 
— not a sparrow falls but he registers that fact (Matt, 10:29); 
"not so much as the weight of an ant in heaven and earth 
escapes from Him" (Koran, XXXIV: 3). 

About theism in this eminently personal mode three ppints 
must be made: 

1. The view is natural. Satirists, eyes peeled for man's pre- 
tensions, use this as a count against it: "If cattle , . . were able 

18. Cosmologies frequently locate the archetypes and God on separate 
ontological planes with God as the higher of the two. When this separa- 
tion is effected the principal levels of reality number five instead of the 
four we are employing. Though the archetypes can be regarded as God's 
first creations, to keep the paradigm this book presents to simplest possible 
proportions we are regarding them as his attributes, in the way Plotinus 
identified Intelligence (Nous) with its objects (the Platonic forms) and 
Augustine saw these forms as God's "divine ideas." 


to draw . . . they would make the bodies of the gods such as 
they had themselves," said Xenophanes; the gods of triangles, 
said Montesquieu, would have three sides. But there is no 
reason to disparage what is natural; as a rule it tokens what 
is fit and appropriate. To be put off by the anthropomorphic 
character of God in scripture amounts in last resort to being 
disaffected with ourselves, for the reality we call God necessarily 
assumes toward us a human demeanor to the end that we may 
enter as fully as possible into what is ultimately impenetrable. 
"Thought flows into man," said Shankara, "as molten metal 
is poured into the founder's mold." The very intensity of the 
God-idea makes it occupy man wholly, more or less as water 
fills a vessel to the brim. It assumes the shape of that which 
contains and limits it, and becomes anthropomorphic. 

But is God personal only in the way he appears to us, or is 
he personal in himself, in his own right and nature? This intro- 
duces the second point. 

2. Theism is true. It is not the final truth; God's personal 
mode is not his final mode; it is not the final reality. Even so, 
it is vastly more real than are the creatures who encounter him 
in this mode, so the fact that the mode is not final presents no 
problem. Only persons who sense themselves to be not finally 
real — anatta, no-self — will sense the same of the God of theism. 
And for them it does not matter that in the last analysis God 
is not the kind of God who loves them, for at this level there 
is no "them" to be loved. Insofar as one takes oneself seriously, 
as all of us do most of the time and most of us do all of the 
time, the God of theism is to be taken seriously too. Not only 
do we love; we are loved. Not only do we ho{>e; we are hoped 
for. Not only do we find or miss meaning; we are meant. 


3. Theism is not the final truth. Its vision of God is modeled 
after capacities that are distinctively human, and noble as 
these capacities are — the capacity to make discriminating judg- 
ments, the capacity to exercise responsible decision and choice, 
the ability to carry out long-range purposes — they require for 


their exercise contexts that stand over and against their subject 
and thereby limit him. But the final reality is unlimited, for 
it is infinite; to put the point in an aphorism, nothing finite 
can be fina/.^' Being persons ourselves, we tend to see in God 
the part or aspect of his nature that is kin to us. But part is 
never whole: man has reflexes (knee jerks, eye blinks); he is 
not himself a reflex, not in his wholeness. Or to move closer 
to the dignity of the topic at hand, man possesses reason while 
at the same time exceeding his possession: reason is his tool, 
not his definition. Several paragraphs above we noted that God 
is anthropomorphic. Now we add that there is a sense in which 
he is not; to wit, the sense in which he transcends all descrip- 
tions, anthropomorphic ones included — mystics often use the 
word "Godhead" for this transpersonal mode. Religious sensi- 
bility demands this correlate as much as does logic, for much as 
we yearn for a God who resembles us, such a God could never 
satisfy us completely: we know ourselves too well.^® It is a 
truism that a God we could comprehend would not command 
our worship. If he could be squeezed into the miserably inade- 
quate vessel of our minds we would not avert our eyes — ^no 
shudder would run through us; there would be no horror 
religiosus, no religious awe. It is not enough to say that God's 
attributes exceed ours inexhaustibly; the attributes themselves 
must be transcended, for in the last analysis they derive, all but 
infinity, from limitation, which finally is what religion works 
to transcend.2i The difference in degree must phase into a^dif- 
ference in kind. 

19. "There is one logically inescapable conception, and it is that of 
infinity, of that which has no limit of any kind. It is impossible to con- 
ceive of an absolute limit; for it would have to be as it were a one-sided 
boundary, a door having an inside face but no outside face." Lord 
Northboume, Religion in the Modern World (London: Perennial Books, 
1970), p. 30. 

20. "It He is like us, we are lost," Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the 
Magnesians on his way to Rome for his martyrdom. I am indebted to 
Father Martin Boler of Mount Savior Monastery, Pine City, New York, for 
this reference. 

21. "Great art suggests . . . ideal forms ... in terms of . . . appearances; 
but what is art to one that toils up the Unshown Way, seeking to 


4. The Infinite 

"The difference between most people and myself," wrote 
Jung toward the close of his life, "is that for me the 'dividing 
walls' are transparent."22 Remove the walls entirely, including 
any that might serve as boundaries or perimeters, and we have 
God in his ultimate nature: the Infinite. 

As with God in his personal mode, so too with his Infinite. 
Several points must be registered, in this case four. 

1. Only negative terms characterize it literally.^^ This begins 
with the word "Infinite" itself, which asserts only that its ob- 
ject is not finite, and holds equally for other characterizations 
such as unconditioned, ineffable, and immutable. In Hinduism 

transcend all limitations of the human intellect, to reach a plane of 
being unconditioned even by ideal form? For such an one, the most 
refined and intellectual delights are but flowery meadows where men 
may linger and delay, while the straight path to utter truth waits vainly 
for the traveller's feet. The thought explains the belief that absolute 
emancipation is hardly won by any but human beings yet incarnate; it 
is harder for the Gods to attain such release, for their pure and exalted 
bliss and knowledge are attachments even stronger than those of earth." 
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, "The Aims of Indian Art," Studies in Com- 
parative Religion, Winter 1975, p. 9. 

22. C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (New York: Vintage 
Books, 1961), p. 355. 

23. "Sacred Writers . . . call It Nameless [because it] is fixed beyond 
every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which 
is to come." Dionysius the Areopagite, The Divine Names and The 
Mystical Theology, trans, by C. E. Rolt (London: S.P.C.K., 1971), p. 61. 
Here Dionysius's accent is on the fact that the Godhead can not be 
named, but elsewhere he adds that it should not be named. For two 
thousand years Jews have been forbidden to pronounce the tetragram- 
maton YHVH, and its vocalization is no longer known. Islam lists ninety- 
nine names of Allah; the hundredth is silent. All this is in keeping with 
an Akka pygmy chief's declaration that "God is He whose Name must 
not even be pronounced." 

We make a point of including the pygmy's assertion to build into this 
book a conviction which, because we have not ourselves worked directly 
with tribal religions, is little documented in these pages and is left to 
ride almost wholly on the allusion to Mircea Eliade's work on page 3; 
namely, the conviction that the primordial tradition covers not only the 
great historical traditions but archaic ones as well. With respect to Native 
American traditions, Joseph Epes Brown's accounts in particular seem to 
support this conviction. 


the Infinite is ntr-guna (without qualities); in Buddhism it is 
nir-vana (nondrawing, as a fire whose fuel is exhausted has 
ceased to draw) and sunyata (emptiness, a void); in Taoism it 
is the Tao that cannot be spoken; in Judaism it is 'en-sof, the 
not-finite. The Infinite cannot be defined positively because 
definitions compare: either they liken what they define to some- 
thing or they distinguish it from something. If they distinguish, 
we are back with negation: the object defined is not what it is 
contrasted with. And if they liken? But the Infinite is all-in- 
clusive, so there is nothing other than it to which it can be 

2. Positive terms apply to the Infinite only analogically. 
When Vedantists say that Brahman is Sat, Chit, and Ananda 
(Being, Awareness, and Bliss) they mean that the terms are 
more accurate than their opposites. The Infinite is more like 
a lion that exists than like a unicorn that does not, more like 
creatures that experience than like objects that do not, more 
like ourselves when we are fulfilled than when we are wanting. 
But that is all the assertions claim. We cannot presume that 
Being in its infinity bears more than a trace of resemblance to 
the being we encounter in rocks or mountains or waterfalls. 
And because the connotation of "being" derives preponderantly 
from the modes in which we encounter it directly, it would be 
misleading to claim that the word characterizes the Infinite lit- 
erally. Only if the claim is converted into its negation — the 
assertion that the Infinite hasn't zero-being (doesn't not-exist) 
— is it literally true; short of this the word functions analogi- 
cally. The same holds for "awareness," "bliss," and all other 
posited attributes. 

3. The degree to which positive terms seem apposite will 
vary. The reason is: it depends on the experience (or the imagi- 
native capacity) of the person who is using them. When Spin- 
oza said that God's knowledge resembles our knowledge to the 
extent that the Dog Star resembles a dog, it was because in his 
discernment the Infinite exceeded the finite in about that ratio. 
Others whose "ceilings" are lower will not find the disparity as 


great. The governing law reads: the more developed the sense 
of the Infinite, the more distant from the finite it appears and 
the less literal positive designations will seem. 

4. The most effective way to underscore the negative side of 
analogy — how much attributes when predicated of the Infinite 
differ from the modes in which we usually encounter them — is 
through paradox. The device can also be seen as one by which 
the mystics who (to borrow one of their own profound words) 
have "suffered" the weight of the Infinite try to raise the sensi- 
bility ceilings of the uninitiated with respect to the Infinite's 
otherness. The opposing forces that paradox generates cause 
it to function as a verbal lever. The mystic may begin, for ex- 
ample, by establishing as fulcrum the fact that God is light. 
This holds both metaphorically (light everywhere symbolizes 
knowledge) and literally inasmuch as God-incursion is often 
accompanied by light that is physically sensed: Christ in his 
transfiguration, Saul on the Damascus road, saints in the 
Eastern Orthodox tradition. But in saying "light" the mystic 
will be misunderstood, for neither the literal nor the symbolic 
light he intends is the light the world knows — on the literal 
side, for example, it has the power of an arc lamp with no 
sense of glare or strain. Immediately, therefore, he must press 
against the word's usual connotations. So: "God is not light"; 
if "light" denotes its conventional referents, God is darkness. 
The countervailing forces raise the far end of the lever toward 
light of a different order. If the alchemy works, our minds are 
expanded and our souls as well.^^ 

24. The following paraphrase of a commentary by Martin Lings on the 
aphorisms of the Shaikh Ahmad al-Alawi further amplifies the dynamics of 
this exceptional mode of discourse: Since wisdom is in fact a hidden treas- 
ure, it is not always uneloquent to present it as such. In the case of 
paradox, however, an additional element is involved. The barbed shaft of 
the unexpected is introduced to penetrate the hearer and goad him into a 
state of spiritual vigilance, keying his understanding to a higher pitch. 
Here too the expression corresponds to an aspect of what is expressed, for 
the truth is in fact strange, and the mind should not be allowed the com- 
placency of supposing that it is familiar with more than a fragment of 
it, seen from a particular angle. A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century 
(Berkeley: Univereity of California Press, 1971), p. 204. 


dazzling darkness 

These four points speak to language and the Infinite. What 
within their stipulations need be added before this chapter 
may close? 

Of the (necessarily negative) predicates that apply to the 
Infinite literally, the most important two are "unbounded" 
and "undifferentiated" — we are back with the fact that walls, 
internal or peripheral, dividing or enclosing, have no place 
at being's summit. The Infinite is unbounded because as we 
have had more than one occasion to remark, a boundary would 
limit it and contradict its infinity. It is undifferentiated,^^ be- 
cause differentiation implies distinction and thereby in some 
respect separation, separation in turn implies distance, and in 
the realm of the spirit distance symbolizes ignorance epistemo- 
logically and privation affectively. A Something that excludes 
nothing save distinctions we cannot begin to image^^ any 

25. "He goes from death to death who sees anything like manyness 
here." Katha Upanishad, Il.i.lO. 

26. If in the face of this fact the mind persists in erecting images, one 
type in particular must be warned against: namely, the kind that pictures 
nondifferentiation as a blank: a cloudless sky, a sea uncloven by waves, a 
field of unbroken light. Such images err because they conspicuously, 
almost self-consciously, exclude. They obviously exclude clouds and waves 
and shapes-and-hues of any form, but more seriously (and contrary to 
their intent) they exclude timelessness. For all of the foregoing images 
are static, and "static" — implying as it does a something that fails to 
change with time — is a temporal concept. An instant is not static; there- 
fore, to invoke images that are static betrays the fact that temporal 
matrices have not yet been transcended. If we cannot resist trying to 


more than we can image light that is simultaneously wave and 
particle, electrons that jump orbit without traversing the inter- 
vening distance, or a particle that passes through alternative 
slits simultaneously without dividing. But if physics does not 
stop with the image-able, need metaphysics? 

Physics can relinquish imagery because it still has mathe- 
matics' terra firma to walk on. Metaphysics lacks this support. 
It reaches a point where, numbers long ago having been 
abandoned, thought itself faces a drop-off. There are some who 
mistake this point for the end of the world; whatever can be 
neither imaged nor coherently conceived, they argue, does not 
exist. But truth does not need us and is in no way dependent 
upon our powers of conceptualization. There are regions of 
being — the unimaginable perfection of totality is at the mo- 
ment the case in point — that are quite unrelated to the con- 
tours of the human mind. The mind is comfortable with facts 
and fictions.2^ It is not made for grasping ultimates. 

Other persons concede that the fact that we cannot conceive 
of something is no proof that it does not exist, but contend that 
if it does exist it is for all practical purposes irrelevant.^^ But 

imagine what the Infinite is like, we will do better to replace lifeless 
images like the ones just cited with recollections of times when we were 
so completely engrossed in what we were doing that ingredient com- 
ponents did not present themselves' as such and we lost track of time 
entirely, whether as stoppd or as continuing. Mystics return repeatedly 
to the climax of sexual love as the most natural human approximation. 
It is to offset simplistic readings of "simple" as a metaphysical predicate 
that Advaitic (a = non, dva = dual) Vedantists say, "Never say 'one'; 
say 'not-two.' " Another way to make the point is to say that "the One 
... is the transcendence of separability rather than the negation of 
plurality." Quoted in The Essential Plottnus, trans, by Elmer O'Brien 
(New York: Mentor Books, 1964), p. 18. We have insisted throughout that 
numbers belong with science rather than with metaphysics, and this is a 
case in point. Metaphysically speaking, one is a quality, not a number. 

27. A pink unicorn is easy to conceive,, however little we may expect to 
encounter one. 

28. Wittgenstein's famous aphorism, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof 
must one remain silent," can be read as this contention as aimed at speech 
and discursive thought. When Frank Ramsey added "and you can't whistle 
it either," he underscored the cutoff. The assertions are exceptionally crisp 
indices of one of the divides that separates contemporary from traditional 


the fact that ultimates exceed the reach of our bread-and-butter 
faculties and can never be captured by minds that insist upon 
absolute rights of possession does not mean that these ultimates 
have no contact with the world we inhabit or with the human 
self in its totality. It is only because we invest all our interests 
in the specifiable, which to be such must perforce be partial 
and ephemeral, that no concern remains for that which is 
total and eternal and therefore unspecifiable. Even so, because 
it is total it cannot be escaped. The belief, normal to mankind, 
that meaning inheres in everything that exists and everything 
that happens derives at depth from the fact that the Ultimate, 
or Infinite as we are calling it, is omnipresent. 

Being everywhere, it is, of course, in man; in the natural 
world it is in man preeminently. This takes us to our next 

philosophy, for whereas traditional philosophy tried to suggest the in- 
expressible and alert men to its importance, recent Western philosophy has 
tried to eliminate it, though Late Heidegger east of the English Channel 
and Late Wittgenstein west of it are signs that the opposition may be 
softening. The just-quoted statement by Wittgenstein is from his early 
work, the Tractatus. Subsequently the ineffable became increasingly real 
for him, and though he did not retract his earlier contention that it cannot 
be specified propositionally — no mystic would have wanted him to retract 
this formulation of his point — he came to believe that the ineffable was 
embedded in the pattern of speech forms ("grammar") and in the fabric of 
human life in which these forms are woven. His later thought can be seen 
as a sustained effort to catch glimpses of the ineffable by penetrating life's 
ebb and flow through chinks in its linguistic texture. 

He is the Self within and without; yea, within 
and without. 


In truth I say to you that within this fathom- 
high body . . . lies the world and the rising of 
the world and the ceasing of the world. 


For the kingdom of Heaven, nay rather, the King 
of Heaven ... is within us. 


4. JUe LeveIs of SElfkood 

As without, so within — the isomorphism of man and the 
cosmos is a basic premise of the traditional outlook. The pre- 
ceding chapter mapped its cosmology; this one will consider 
the levels of reality as they appear within man himself. We 
could think of the chapter as an excursion into psychology 
were it not for the fact that that word as currently used denotes 
at best but half the ground to be covered: "pneumatology," the 
science of the soul or spirit, would be a better designation. A 
sentence by William James provides a bridge from psychology 
to the pneumatology we now essay. 

The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the 
world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds 
of consciousness that exist, and that those other worlds must con- 
tain experiences which have a meaning for our life also; and that 
although in the main their experiences and those of this world 
keep discrete, yet the two become continuous at certain points, and 
higher energies filter inA 

1. The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Collier Books, 1961), 
p. 401. 



If man does indeed mirror the cosmos, a quick review of 
the traditional cosmology will alert us to its regions that call 
for human counterparts. Visualized, that cosmology shows the 
earth, symbolic of the terrestrial sphere, enveloped by the 
intermediate sphere, which in turn is enclosed by the celestial, 
the three concentric spheres together being superimposed on a 
background that is Infinite. 

Considered in itself each sphere appears as a complete and 
homogeneous whole, while from the perspective of the area 
that encloses and permeates it, it is but a content. Thus the 
terrestrial world knows not the intermediate world, nor the 
latter the celestial, though each world is known and dominated 
by the one that exceeds and enfolds it. 

Positioned, as we are, at the center of these realms, when we 
look out we look up, when we look in we look down. In the 
latter case empowering is sensed to erupt from below and pro- 
ceed from within: vital organs are encased in skeletal armor, 
seeds slumber in husks, kernels are guarded by shells less ani- 
mate (see figure on page 21). Chapter 2 described this inversion 
in a general way; now we are ready to delineate the echelons of 
selfhood that derive from and reflect the ontological planes 
the preceding chapter established. The overview can be dia- 
grammed as follows: 

*The assertion is from The Emerald Tablets of Hermes Trismegistus. 


/. Body 

We begin with man's surface aspect, his body. One hundred 
fifty pounds, more or less, of protoplasm that we can see, touch, 
and maneuver, it is the most evident part of our makeup, so 
need not detain us long. Pages could be given to its wonders. 
We could describe the cells that are its building blocks, each 
equipped with hundreds or thousands of allosteric enzyme 
molecules a million billion times finer than the most delicate 
cybernetic relays man can devise. Or we could note the brain 
that is the body's apex; with its 10 billion neurons any one 
of which can be related to as many as 25,000 others for a num- 
ber of possible associations that exceeds the number of atoms 
in the universe, it is the most highly organized three pounds of 
matter we know. There is no need to dwell on details.^ We leap 
over them to consider the sentience that infuses the human 

2. Mind 

Mechanists consider mind to be a part of the body, but this 
is a mistake. The brain is a part of the body, but mind and 
brain are not identical.^ The brain breathes mind like the 
lungs breathe air. 

It is not possible to prove these assertions, for as we just 

2. No disrespect is intended the sciences that brought such facts to light 
or the scientists, inspired in investigation, ascetic in discipline, who dis- 
covered them. The point is only that size and complexity, however awesome 
they may appear until our minds get habituated to them, are consonant 
with reason and therefore are in principle unmysterious. This does not 
hold for the quarry we are tracking. 

3. "Some say that we merely speak in two different languages when refer- 
ring to thoughts on the one hand and to neural processes on the other. 
But we speak in two languages because we are talking of two different 
things. We speak of the thoughts Shakespeare had while writing his plays 
and not of the thoughts of hydrochloric acid dissolving zinc, because 
men think and acids don't." Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge (Chicago: 
The University of Chicago Press. 1958). pp. 389-90. 


said, each plane when viewed from within presents itself as a 
complete and self-sufficient whole. But though this rules out 
the possibility of demonstrating the existence of ontological 
"mores" of whatever sort, intimations of such mores are likely 
to obtrude, for the lesser is in fact not self-contained. Whether 
a given individual picks up on these intimations — "hath ears 
to hear" — depends on his on tic sensitivity (see p. 50). 

Intimations of the fact that the mind, though obviously im- 
plicated with the brain ("attached to the body" is Aristotle's 
wording) is not reducible to it are of three sorts. 

First there is the evidence that derives from neurophysiolo- 
gists themselves. A quarter-century ago when this science was 
getting on its legs. Sir Charles Sherrington wrote: "That our 
being should consist of two fundamental elements offers, I 
suppose, no greater improbability than that it should rest on 
one." The years that have intervened have not increased the 
improbability of the two-entities theory. On the contrary: 
Wilder Penfield, dean of living neurophysiologists if anyone 
deserves such a title, thinks that the advances the years have 
brought make the theory probable. In The Mystery of the 
Mind: A Critical Study of Consciousness and the Human Brain, 
he points out that by applying electrodes to the memory and 
motor regions of the cerebral cortex of patients undergoing 
brain surgery the surgeon can make them remember past 
events and move their bodily members, but there is no brain- 
spot which, if electrically stimulated, will induce patients to 
believe or to decide. Stressing that years of studying the mech- 
anisms of the human brain have forced him to retain rather 
than abandon the distinction between- mind and these mechan- 
isms, Penfield concludes that: 

Mind must be viewed as a basic element in itself. . . . The mind 
seems to act independently of the brain in the same sense that a 
programmer acts independently of his computer. ... It will always 
be quite impossible to explain the mind on the basis of neuronal 
action within the brain. . . . Mind comes into action and goes out 
of action with the highest brain-mechanism. But the mind has 


energy [and] the form of that energy is different from that of 
neuronal potentials that travel the axone pathways.'* 

Still in the area of neurophysiology is the recent discovery 
that the two hemispheres of the human brain serve different 
functions. Its left hemisphere (which controls the right side 
of the body and perceives through right-body sense organs) 
works predominantly with the analytic, logical thinking of 
language and mathematics. Meanwhile the right hemisphere 
("wired" to the left side of the body) proceeds holistically. In- 
stead of following trails of linear reason and "single causation" 
as does the left hemisphere, it takes in fields in a gulp; it grasps 
intuitively, in patterned gestalts. It thinks, but because it by- 
passes language, it thinks tacitly in the sense in which Michael 
Polanyi uses this word in his Tacit Dimension. This mode of 
mentation equips it for artistic endeavor, pattern recognition 
— our ability to identify faces at a glance — and the orientation 
of our bodies in space: walking, swimming, or riding a bicycle. 
Since these right hemisphere functions involve space, whereas 
talk takes time, we can say that the right hemisphere functions 
predominantly spatially and the left temporally. If, as we are 
about to propose, the right hemisphere is in closer touch with 
the subtle plane than is the left, the following remark by a 
noted recent painter is precise: "Time is an invention of man, 
but space — space belongs to the gods" (Max Beckmann). 

Since only the human brain is thus divided, no other species 
even prefiguring it, the division is obviously related to man's 
attendant monopoly, language. But why must linguistic com- 
petence be compartmentalized? Why does it not pervade the 
cerebral cortex as a whole? Because, it would seem, our entire 

4. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975, pp. 81, 79, 80, 48. See 
also Sir John Eccles' Preface to Eric Polten, Critique of the Psycho-Physi- 
cal Identity Theory (The Hague: Mouton, 1973), which is summarized in 
his own words as follows: "The program of the . . . materialists is . . . to 
reduce conscious experiences to the science of brain states and hence to 
physics. Thus everything would be reduced to properties of matter. Their 
efforts to deny or to ignore conscious experiences have collapsed because 
of its intrinsic absurdity" (p. ix). 


being cannot be accommodated to it. This being the case, a 
part of the brain must be kept language-free. Only so can capac- 
ities that are incommensurate with language yet indispensable 
to life remain intact. 

If it is impossible for man to manage the whole of his ter- 
restrial life by means of language, it goes without saying that 
transverbal faculties must enter even more if he is to traffic 
with supraterrestrial planes, which differ in kind from the 
plane that language is primarily designed to cope with and 
mirror. Without empowerment by the psychic order, man can- 
not live: we see empirical evidence of this in the laboratory dis- 
covery that experimental subjects who are allowed to sleep but 
not to dream go mad; metaphysically it follows from the double 
fact that (a) the lesser is ordered and empowered by the greater, 
and (b) the psychic plane is greater than the corporeal. The 
psychic cannot, however, be fitted into corporeal categories 
which are also, in the main, the categories of language. Speak- 
ing in the manner of a Platonic myth, we might say that the 
mind, contemplating its descent into matter, foresaw that it 
would have to school itself in its ways. It did so by pouring 
its direct and luminous intellection into molds — concepts, 
words, language — that splintered it, for "rational" and "ratio- 
cination" presuppose what the words suggest: a process in 
which we ration or divide up reality into separate things to 
facilitate discussion. In "the widest possible signification of the 
notion of sin, namely that of centrifugal movement" (F. 
Schuon), the mind consented to "take on the sins of the world" 
— the categories of matter and the language that in part re- 
flects, in part creates, these categories. But if mind was to save 
the world — redeem it from total opacity and lifelessness — part 
of its nature had to remain outside those categories, for reason, 
being founded in distinctions, can at best only grope toward 
wholeness; indirectly through inference, and sequentially 
through time. The parallel with the two natures of Christ is 
exact: The mind assumes the conditions of the fall with its 
left (distinctively human) hemisphere while keeping its right 


hemisphere transcendent. That both hemispheres are requi- 
site for man's full functioning is but one more evidence of his 
amphibious nature. He lives in the world while not being of 

At the beginning of this section we said that there are three 
lines of argument that point toward the conclusion that mind 
exceeds the terrestrial plane. Neurophysiology we have noted; 
of the other two, one is theoretical and the other empirical. 

The theoretical argument asks if matter can ever account for 
sentience, or mind in the widest sense of the word. This is a 
time-worn issue, of course, one of the thorniest in the entire 
history of philosophy. What we can say briefly is that no con- 
vincing materialistic explanation of mind has been forthcom- 
ing. Matter is located in space; one can specify precisely where 
a given tree, let us say, resides. But if one asks where his per- 
ception of the tree is located he can expect difficulties. The 
difficulties increase if he asks how tall his perception of the 
tree is; not how tall is the tree he sees, but how tall is his see- 
ing of it. Conscious experience is, as Sir Charles Sherrington 
observed, "refractory to measurement." 

We cannot say that the experience of one light has twice the 
brightness of another. The terms in which we measure experience 
of sound are not terms of experience. They are terms of the 
stimulus, the physical sound, or of the nervous or other bodily 
action concomitant with the experience. . . . Mind, if it were 
energy, would be measurable quantitatively. . . . But . . . the search 
in [the energy -scheme] for a scale of equivalence between energy 
and mental experience arrives at none.^ 

That in some way I see because I have eyes and move my arms 
and legs because I want to seems as incontrovertible as any- 
thing can be; both our observation of life and the fact that 
within limits we can take it in hand and squeeze it like an 
orange presuppose body-mind interaction. But as to the char- 

5. Man on His Nature (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1953), 
p. 25L 


acter of the interaction — Penfield says it is no more explicable 
today than it was in the time of Aristotle, but in reality it is 
less explicable, for Aristotle's nature included its subtle half 
whereas the current conception, which prunes nature to almost 
its quantifiable components, is less accommodating. As a con- 
sequence we live with an impasse. Sherrington's conclusion 
has lost nothing in the thirty-five years since he wrote it. 

Progress of knowledge . . . has only made more clear that the 
spatial concept's far-reaching notion "energy" is . . . powerless to 
deal with or to describe mind. . . . Mind . . . goes ... in our 
spatial world more ghostly than a ghost. Invisible, intangible, it 
is a thing not even in outline; it is not a "thing". It remains with- 
out it forever.* 

The matter comes to this: From the side of insentient matter 
the gulf that separates it from sentience is infinite; no bridge 
can reach the other bank. A ton of feathers presents no prob- 
lem, but of items that weigh nothing whatever, no number 
will produce even an ounce. The doctrine of "emergent evolu- 
tion" contributes nothing here. Proceeding from the fact that 
gases that cannot be poured may condense into liquids that 
can be poured, it argues that new qualities do arise. In riding 
such analogies it overlooks the fact that a clear continuity joins 
liquid to gas — the two are alternative arrangements of mole- 
cules in motion — whereas no common substratum linking sen- 
tience to insentience has been proposed. We shall return to 
the subject of emergence in Chapter 6. For now we note only 
that, as it happens, a substratum linking insentience to sen- 
tience does exist; depending on the Level of reality on which 
the question is raised, it is form, existence, being, or the In- 
finite. But nothing answering to physical categories links the 
terrestrial plane to those above. 

Such are the theoretical considerations that suggest that 
mind exceeds matter. A final line of argument is empirical. 
Instead of arguing that mind is a distinctive kind of entity. 

6. Ibid., p. 260. 


it argues that it functions in distinctive ways. It plays by dif- 
ferent rules, conforms to laws that differ in kind from those 
that matter exemplifies. 

We are picking up here with the psi phenomena that were 
introduced in the preceding chapter: mental performances 
that are called parapsychological because by canons of the 
mind's usual operations they are scandalous. As was intimated 
in that chapter, we shall not try to prove that telepathy, clair- 
voyance, psychokinesis, and the like occur; volumes could be 
devoted to the project and still uncertainty would remain — in 
border areas ontological convictions count for more than do 
data, the latter being necessarily spotty when sighted from 
what might be called their underside on the ontological ladder. 
It is enough to note: (a) that some of the most recognized of 
modern intellects — men of the stature of Kant, Bergson, and 
William James— found the evidence in favor of parapsychology 
convincing; and (b) that the climate of opinion in general 
seems at present to be moving in the direction of credence: we 
recall the survey we earlier cited in which only 3 percent of 
the readers of The New Scientist reported that they consider 
psi phenomena to be impossible. Anyone who wishes his opin- 
ion to adhere as closely as possible to the evidence can look at 
Arthur Koestler's quick summary in his already-mentioned 
The Roots of Coincidence; if he has more time he might work 
through the two volumes of F. W. H. Myers's monumental 
Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death. 

So much for the existence of mind as a stratum of sel£ that 
is neither reducible to the brain nor finally dependent on it. 
Turning to our experience of this stratum, we note that it 
takes two forms: waking and dreaming. 

The "feel" of mind as we encounter it awake is so familiar 
that we overlook the mystery it parades in broad daylight. For 
on the one hand it truly reaches the physical world and no 
philosophical artifice can convince us of the contrary; mean- 
while it consists of nothing but a tissue of images conditioned 
by what our senses can pick up, our interests induce them to 


pick up, and our past experience feeds in by ways of inter- 
pretations that elicit expectations. Everything that constitutes 
for us the world — its brute stubbornness, its continuity, its 
logical coherence — is a flow of phantasms, a gossamer of Berk- 
eleian impressions. It is futile to try to know the world outside 
this magic lantern show, since it comes to us only throiigh its 
"slides." All the while the world insists — and we cannot but 
agree — that we are not looking at a screen at all. The screen 
is a window through which we see the world itself, an autono- 
mous order. 

No theory of perception removes this miracle, the fact that 
an entity in one region of space flashes forth to assume — in 
truth become — the form (though not the matter) of entities 
removed: the sparkle in a mountain stream, the red on the 
throat of a ring-necked pheasant. Or causes those qualities to 
come to it— with mind we are on the intermediate plane where 
"wheres" cannot be pinpointed on the terrestrial map. When 
we move from perception to memory, imagination, and abstract 
thought the mysteries compound. If physiological psychology 
ever gives the impression of explaining these phenomena we 
should not be misled; it removes their mysteries in the way 
daylight banishes stars. Given sufficient pertinacity, reason's 
flailings can worry the mystery out of anything. In fact, of 
course, it is our sensibilities that die: " 'Tis ye, 'tis your 
estranged faces. That miss the many-splendoured thing." Al- 
ternatively, "It is not the eyes which grow blind. It is the hearts 
within the breasts that grow blind" (Koran, XXII, 46). 

Daily, when we sleep, mind changes its register. In deep or 
dreamless sleep its content — assuming,, with India, that it then 
continues: to have a content''^ — is out of sight; presumably it is 
too undifferentiated to be recalled. Dreams, on the other hand, 
can be remembered, but we must not overlook the evaporation 
that occurs in the process. As we pass into wakefulness a sort 
of decantation takes place, of which we can, however, take 

7. See Franklin Merrell-WolfF, The Philosophy of Consciousness Without 
an Object (New York: Julian Press, 1973). 


note inasmuch as it is by degrees that a dream's force subsides 
and its otherworldliness eases into linguistic molds. 

In dream the subtle body retires from the gross. The com- 
munication lines to its physical senses are disconnected, and 
it returns to its natural medium. For the duration of its "home 
leave" its. pedestrian rendezvous with matter is suspended and 
it swims untrammeled in the psychic sphere. Because that 
sphere is its native habitat — the environment that is continu- 
ous with the stuff of which the mind is composed — the home- 
coming refreshes and restores. "He giveth his beloved — sleep." 

Not that the dream world is more pleasant. Terrors lie in 
wait each time we turn out the light, nightmares being on 
average as common as dreams of peace. Nor do we see more 
clearly while asleep; if anything maya is compounded. We 
know less where we are and for this reason can take ourselves 
less in hand, a point the religions make by rating earthly life 
precious because of the opportunity it affords us to alter our 
condition toward final ends. Not pleasurableness but vivid- 
ness and power are the respects in which dreams outrank our 
waking consciousness. 

Dreams are invariably and by nature vivid because they 
know no habituation: each encounter with a rose or goblin 
is as if we were meeting it for the first time. As to power, the 
case is ambiguous. In one sense dreams have little power, for 
as we just noted, being disjoined from will, they do not in 
themselves affect our futures as much as our deliberate doings 
can. We cannot say that they have no power, for merf" have 
been known to emerge from dreams with perspectives that 
changed the course of their entire lives, as in Dostoevsky's 
story "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man." On the whole, how- 
ever, the force dreams possess is passive rather than active; 
their emotional intensity is out of proportion to the difference 
they make. Beyond their freedom from habituation that has 
been remarked, their intensity derives from the fact that they 
put us in touch with forces that are more deep-lying and caus- 
ative than the ones we notice in daily life. The dream lecture 


in the course of which I discover that I am prepared in neither 
content nor attire may be fictional with respect to real life — 
read: the waking world. Certainly I breathe easier when I 
awake and realize that it was, as I say to myself, only a dream. 
The fact remains that the anxiety the dream confronts me with 
is more real— calls more tunes, throws more switches in my 
moods and behavior — than the satisfaction I may feel later 
in the day in the course of an actual lecture for which I have 
prepared and donned trousers; in this sense we are indeed 
"such stuff as dreams are made on." Dream research has come 
up with exceptionally concrete evidence to document the fact 
that in dreams we are close to the center of life's vitalities. 
Eighty percent of the time men dream they have erections. 

Between wakefulness and dreaming lies the twilight zone of 
daydream. Phenomenologists could dub in a whole landscape 
here, filled with phantasms that belie by their insubstantiality 
the power they exert over us. We will forgo the tour of this 
interface and touch instead on a final way we might catch a 
glimpse of the mind at work. If discarnates can indeed report 
through mediums their experiences after death, these reports 
would testify to the mind in an exceptionally pristine condi- 
tion, a state totally unimplicated in the corporeal world. Such 
reports should be approached with great suspicion, for the 
"controls" in question are not integrated souls or even inte- 
grated minds; they consist at most of "psychic residues" that 
minds leave in their wake as they traverse the psychic plane.* 
When our bodies break up under the heavy years and our 
souls proceed toward eternity, superfluous fragments of our 
personalities may float on for awhile like small lost rafts on 
the psychic sea. Reports that derive from these fragments, as- 
suming that some actually do so, could resemble the reports 

8. This needs particularly to be said in this day of what our colleague 
Agehananda Bharati has called "rampant Rampaism," wherein the writings 
of an English plumber with the pen name Lobsang Ranipa have produced 
a craze, as have those of Jane Roberts, who purports to be the amanuensis 
of a departed soul named Seth. 


of schizophrenics: truth shot through with ellipses and masses 
of misrepresentation. From the reports of patients in our asy- 
lums a visitor from another planet might glean some sense 
of the earthly condition, but we would advise him against 
taking their reports at face value. The entire subject of spirit- 
ualism is «o treacherous — Rene Guenon's L'Erreur Spirite sets 
it in perspective better than any other work we know — that 
we are tempted to skirt it entirely; but in order not to rule 
out the possibility that an occasional sliver of truth may reach 
us from these lands of shades via shamans or other mediums, 
we shall enter a single report, the latest as it happens to have 
come our way. Though we knew and respected the medium 
involved, Eileen Garrett, we quote her report, which purport- 
edly came from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, not for this reason 
but for one that is "logical"; that is, the extent to which it con- 
forms to standard accounts of the intermediate plane. 

I think that, as a matter of fact, when I say I am living in a 
world considerably like the one I have left, j>eople will be sur- 
prised. I find myself doing many of the things which I did there. 
I find I am living in a world as dark as that which I have left, 
more's the pity. It is a country where pain is forever ended; where 
emotion is born a thousand times stronger; where inspirations 
reach me easier. I find myself in a bodily state. It is a world where 
the sinister life is to be dealt with. This is neither heaven nor hell. 
It is a combination of both. Believe me, it is only the beginnng. 
I understand that it tends to confirm the theory [that] soul goes 
through many phases. It is really the soul of me in bodilyr form. 
The scientists will disagree with me, but I am still "material," and 
so long as I am material, I feel myself the man I was on earth.9 

We note in particular that the absence of physical pain and in- 
tensification of emotion conform to dream experience, and 
that the continuation of body in some form agrees with ac- 
counts that range from India's "subtle body" to the glorified 
and incorruptible "resurrected body" St. Paul alludes to. 

9. Allan Angoff, Eileen Garrett and the World Beyond the Senses (New 
York: William Morrow 8c Co., 1974), pp. 40-41. 


3. Soul 

The conditions that govern this earthly cockpit in which 
we are stationed are local and relative. To daydream is to 
gaze out its windows at cloud kingdoms or stars so bright they 
seem at fingertip; at such times we forget for a spell our 
cabined condition and risk air's rhapsody of the deep. Sleep 
springs us from our carrier and brings the weightlessness of 
dream; death severs the lifeline to our transport, and for a 
time we stride the clouds like titans. 'Tor a time," because 
there is a dimension of our selves that exceeds even the strato- 
sphere, an essence no universe, subtle or gross, can contain. 
The ancients called it soul (psyche, anima, sarira atman, ne- 
phesh, or nafs) and though on the cosmological map it lies 
beyond the reach of the strongest telescope, we can join it in 
a twinkling once we learn its register. For it is closer to our 
essence by far than is the mind with which we usually identify. 

The soul is the final locus of our individuality. Situated 
as it were behind the senses, it sees through the eyes without 
being seen, hears with the ears without itself being heard. 
Similarly it lies deeper than mind. If we equate mind with 
the stream of consciousness, the soul is the source of this, 
stream; it is also its witness while never itself appearing within 
the stream as a datum to be observed. It underlies, in fact, not 
only the flux of mind but all the changes through which an in- 
dividual passes; it thereby provides the sense in which these 
changes can be considered to be his. No collection of the traits 
I possess — my age, my appearance, what have you — constitutes 
the essential "me," for the traits change while I remain in 
some sense myself. To switch to the vocabulary of George 
Herbert Mead, the fragments of self that present themselves 
for identification constitute the "me" while the "I" that sup- 
ports them as a clotheshorse supports the garments we drape 
over it remains concealed. To try to get the "I" into the field 
of vision is like trying to see my eyes by stepping back a pace; 
with every backward move I make, it retreats correlatively. But 
though the "me" is the only part of myself I can objectify, I 


sense it to be the object of a subject that is its source and 

This superior is the soul. We sense it indelibly in the incom- 
municable sense of what it feels like to be oneself instead of 
anyone else who has ever lived, but beyond this we know it 
only indirectly, by its effects. The way it supplies us with life 
is completely invisible, as is the way it directs the trajectory 
of our ontogenetic development: from the moment of concep 
tion it decrees that the raw materials the body assimilates in 
food and drink and air will be transformed according to in- 
credible foreordinations to produce from among illimitable 
possibilities precisely — a human being. These workings of the 
soul are not only hidden from the subject they create; for the 
most part they elude even the laboratory scrutinies of science — 
microbiology gives only a barest glimpse of the drama involved. 
Where we do sense our souls is first, to repeat, in our discern- 
ment of our individuality — the fact that from conception to 
death we are the same person, which person is distinct from 
all others — and second, in our wants. For if we ask what we 
sense ourselves to be, there is no better initial answer than 
that we are creatures that want. 

How far this definition holds for things other than human 
— animal, vegetable, possibly in some panpsychic sense even 
mineral — need not concern us. Nor need we lay out a classifi- 
cation that would set our wants in array: physical, psychologi- 
cal, spiritual, whatever. We cut through elaborations to center 
on a single point: the soul's essential dynamism.i*' In the faint 
glimpses of itself that the soul affords us, it appears less as a 
thing than as a movement; to paraphrase Nietzsche, it resembles 
a bridge more than a destination. Restlessness is built into it 
as a metaphysical principle. And though its Teachings often 
seem random, they have a direction. 

What is this direction? 

Ever since man appeared on this planet he seems to have 

10. "Self-motion is the very idea and essence of the soul." Plato, 
Phaedrus, 245d. "Anything that has a soul . . . move[s] itself." Aristotle, 
Physics, 265b, 34. 


been searching for an object that he could love, serve, and 
adore wholeheartedly; an object which, being of the highest 
and most permanent beauty and perfection, would never per- 
mit his love for it to dwindle, deteriorate, or suffer frustration. 
The search has led to difficulties. It has brought him face to 
face with calamity and taken from him a toll of heavy sacrifice 
including the sacrifice of life itself. Yet he persists. The relent- 
less urge of his nature compels him to continue at all costs. 
The entire history of the race — political, moral, legal, socio- 
cultural, intellectual, economic, and religious, from earliest 
times to the present day — is the record of man's search for 
some beckoning object. 

And again we ask, what is this object? 

Freud thought it was connected in some way with sexual 
release, Adler with the drive for power. McDougall saw it as 
the urge to express the animal instincts that in man have 
entered into mysterious combination, Marx as economic well- 
being, often rationally disguised. The metaphysical answer is 
more basic. The soul is programmed, as we might say today, 
first to perpetuate its existence and then to augment it. Its 
tropism is toward being and its increase. 

This is obvious in the case of drives like hunger and sex, 
but it holds for other outreaches as well, indeed for every out- 
reach. We seek wealth and power because they strengthen our 
support system, fame and power because they increase our 
social stature. Friendship at once shores up our lives by the 
positive regard it elicits from others and enlarges our lives by 
stretching them, so to speak, to include the lives of others 
within them: we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with 
those who mourn. Knowledge extends our understanding— 
"The world spreads out on either side / No wider than the 
mind is wide" — and beauty foretells the inner harmony of 
things. In the latter case, it is a quickening of spirit that sig- 
nals augmented being rather than an enlargement in size, 
which is being's usual metaphorical quantifier. 

Not that we see that being is invariably what we want. What 
the lover senses himself as wanting is his beloved. In this he 


is not mistaken, of course; the point concerns only why he 
loves her. That question the lover himself does not ask: im- 
mersed completely in the universe of love, its object is self- 
evidently its final cause. But if our object is to understand, the 
question "why" obtrudes. The beloved attracts because she 
configurates the precise aperture through which being can 
pour through to her lover in largest portions. Or change the 
image. Among innumerable pieces of quartz that lie strewn 
about the floor of a quarry it may chance that one alone bends 
the sun's rays at the exact angle that sends them toward my 
eyes. Doing so makes the quartz gleam. Yet it is the sun's light 
I see; were cloud to intervene, the quartz would turn to slag. 
So it goes: every emptiness we feel is "being" eclipsed, all 
restlessness a Hailing for the being that we need, all joy the 
evidence of being found. 

Kings lick the earth whereof the fair are made. 
For God hath mingled in the dusty earth 
A draught of Beauty from His choicest cup. 
'Tis that, fond lover — not these lips of clay — 
Thou art kissing with a hundred ecstasies. 
Think, then, what must it be when undefiledl^^ 

Even the addict who prowls the streets for his angry "fix" 
and the assassin who stalks his fated prey are reaching out for 
being. The alleys that they walk are blind ones; judged in 
terms of the larger being they preclude or the damage they 
work on the being of others they stand condemned. Buf if it 
were possible to consider the cocaine's "rush" by itself, apart 
from its consequences, it would be judged good; the same 
holds for the satisfaction that sweeps over the assassin as he 
effects his revenge. Esse qua esse bonum est. Being as being 
is good; ^2 more being is better. 

11. Jalal al-Din Rumi, Mathnawi, V, 372-75. English trans, by R. A. 
Nicholson, Rumi, Poet and Mystic (London: George Allen 8c Unwin, 1950), 
p. 45. 

12. This is the metaphysical meaning in St. Paul's assertion to the 
Romans: "I know with certainty on the authority of the Lord Jesus that 
nothing is unclean in itself" (14:14). 


It was Aristotle who saw every movement in the universe as 
ultimately caused by the irresistible attraction of being's super- 
lative instance, the Unmoved Mover. That is the magnet; that, 
the far-off divine event toward which creation moves. St. 
Thomas detailed his insight: the dynamic pulse and throb of 
creation is the love of all things for the Infinite; in Dante's 
echo, it is "I'amor che muove il sole e I'altre stelle," the Love 
that moves the sun and the other stars. From the lowest level 
of reality, where even matter reaches out for form, to the high- 
est heavens where angels gravitate around the Throne, a single 
breath and motion sweeps through existence, the search of each 
existent for the Good. 

Our interest here is the way man, specifically his soul, in- 
stances this tendency. So sweetly are things disposed that it 
appears to the soul not so much that it is led as that it goes 
as it were of itself. Desiring self-fulfillment, it actively, of its 
own free will, goes where this fulfillment is to be found. And 
because the soul is finite, it appears to the soul as if its fulfill- 
ment were to be found in finite things: wealth, fame, power, 
a loved one, whatever. And again we say: in its way this is not 
inaccurate. But a telltale clue betrays the fact that such im- 
mediate objects of desire are but proximate ends that front 
for one that stands behind them and with respect to which they 
are but installments. This clue is the fact that we invest these 
manifestly finite objects with infinite worth. As infinite at- 
tractiveness is obviously not an objective property of our de- 
sired objects, a paradox ensues: we want infinitely, to the point 
of sacrificing our lives at times, things that are finite. Our 
usual way of explaining this paradox" is to say that our eval- 
uations are bestowed. The lover projects his estimate on the 
beloved — lays it on her, she may sometimes feel. The phenome- 
non admits of another interpretation. It is not so much that 
he projects infinity — infinite worth — upon her as that he 
glimpses infinity — the Infinite — through her. She has, for the 
duration that his passion lasts, become for him a symbol as 
(for Dante) was Beatrice: she in whom Heaven's glory walked 


the earth bodily. Symbols can be more or less effective and 
more or less durable, but within these limits they are the 
apertures we mentioned. However foolish the swain's love, 
while it lasts something, at least, of the Shekinah (Presence) 
hovers. God is near. The lover is in heaven. 

For the most part the soul flits from symbol to symbol. Be- 
ing flashes for a moment, now here, now there, only to with- 
draw. The object that admitted its light almost blindingly 
closes over, and we wonder, as we say, what we saw in her. 
In the long run the closures are providential, for they keep 
us from getting caught on ontological rungs that are incapable 
of satisfying us as much as ones that are higher.^^ At the time, 
however, the closures are painful. When no replacement ap- 
pears, our inward indigence turns everything to wasteland; at 
this juncture macrocosm mirrors microcosm. Searching for a 
love that is unerodable, Plato depicted in the Symposium the 
possibility of passing from the love of beautiful objects to the 
love of that within these that makes them beautiful: from the 
love of a particular woman to the love of the femininity they 
have in common, to suggest an example that was not his. 
From this one might proceed, he argued, until one arrived 
at the love of the Good itself, whereupon, it being the 
Form that composes all lesser forms, one could in some 
respect love everything and so never be without an object 
for his affections. 

For most temperaments this route is too abstract. Its alterna- 
tive is to love not the Good but God. The object of this pref- 
erence, as we pointed out in the preceding chapter, is not a 
fiction. On pain of anthropomorphism we must be on guard 
not to ascribe to God properties that make us distinctively hu- 
man: our kind of knowledge, our mode of love. And we must 
not overlook that exceptional type of spiritual personality 
who, having sloughed off his own image and achieved within 

13. "The desire for perfection ... is that desire which always makes every 
pleasure appear incomplete, for there is no joy or pleasure so great in this 
life that it can quench the thirst in our Soul." Dante, // Convivio, III. vi. 3. 


himself a kind of total nudity, can know God otherwise than 
through a human prototype; this type we shall treat in the 
next section. But between anthropomorphism on the one river- 
bank and transpersonalism on the other flow the waters of the 
living God. It is not just, as we have noted,^ that the lion knows 
a leonine deity; that much was said in the preceding chapter. 
We must go further and say that what we see through the 
tinted glass of our finite human discernments is nonetheless 
there, and if an in-ways-humanized image serves as bridge to 
a region beyond the limitations under which all images must 
labor, then al-hamdu lillah — praise be to Allah, as the Muslims 
would say. 

It is not easy to gauge the spiritual temperature of an age 
nor to discern the mode its spirituality assumes, but the preva- 
lence of phrases like "the death of God" or better, "the eclipse 
of God," suggests that men seem to be "saying thou to the 
universe," to use William James's phrase, less than they did 
in the past, and hearing less in the way of personalized re- 
sponses from it. Even entertainers capitalize on the point: "I 
needed God so I called him," a quipster remarks. "He put 
me on hold." It may be that the mechanization of our in- 
dustrial environment — steel sheets and girders, concrete piers 
and asphalt roads, belching blast furnaces, heavy coal smoke, 
and dead neon signs — it may be that this enveloping insen- 
tience has led us unconsciously to assume that all environ- 
ments are inanimate, whereas in fact, of course, above the 
smog the stars still shine and the angels sing. If deep is answer- 
ing to deep less today it is not because the depths have changed, 
certainly not on their objective side. If our world has changed, 
this only reflects the change in the idea we now have of it. 
God has not retreated; it is we who have turned away. 

So far have we strayed that we need a firsthand account to 
remind us what it was like to live in the conviction, periodically 
fortified by direct realization, that from beginning to end 
existence thrills to the life of the living God. To emphasize 
the fact that personalized experiences of God were not re- 


stricted to saints and seers, we deliberately present as illustra- 
tion here an account by an anonymous layman, one drawn 
from the manuscript collection which the psychologist E. D. 
Starbuck assembled around the turn of the century. 

I remember the night, and almost the very spot on the hilltop, 
where my soul opened out, as it were, into the Infinite, and there 
was a rushing together of the two worlds, the inner and the outer. 
It was deep calling unto deep — the deep that my own struggle had 
opened up within being answered by the unfathomable deep with- 
out, reaching beyond the stars. I stood alone with Him who had 
made me, and all the beauty of the world, and love, and sorrow, 
and even temptation. I did not seek Him, but felt the perfect 
unison of my spirit with His. The ordinary sense of things around 
me faded. For the moment nothing but an ineffable joy and 
exultation remained. It is impossible fully to describe the experi- 
ence. It was like the effect of some great orchestra when all the 
separate notes have melted into one swelling harmony that leaves 
the listener conscious of nothing save that his soul is being wafted 
upwards, and almosl bursting with its own emotion. The perfect 
stillness of the night was thrilled by a more solemn silence. The 
darkness held a presence that was all the more felt because it was 
not seen. I could not any more have doubted that He was there 
than that I was. Indeed, I felt myself to be, if possible, the less 
real of the two.^* 

Happiness, it is said, has no history. History recounts wars 
and plagues and famines. All the while on the underside of its 
mantle of disaster a different kind of drama has never ceased 
from being woven. A private, interior drama consisting of 
scenes like the one just described, it reaches the pages of his- 
tory only when it makes an exceptional impact, as did St. Paul's 
experience on the Damascus road or Luther's sudden compre- 
hension of the full import of "I believe in the forgiveness of 
sins." Yet precisely because it is an interior drama it touche"S 
the wellsprings of joy and resiliency. Those who are tapped for 
its cast can lie down on nettles, lie down with vipers, and 

14. Quoted in James, Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 69. 


scarcely notice where they are. The world is not relinquished, 
but it assumes its proper place. It 

is not all; 

Is harsh with envy, greed, assault, — or blooms 
With friendship, courage, truth, is beautiful; 
Yet is at best but an inn on a thoroughfare: 
Provincial, one might call the mind contented there. 

The phenomenology of the soul's romance with its Creator 
admits of three distinguishable modes. In the first the accent 
falls on the love the soul feels for God. The troubadours come 
to mind here, as do the seekers of the grail and the seventh- to 
ninth-century Alvars of South India, alvar meaning literally 
"diver" (into the ocean of divine consciousness). These ecstatic 
devotees of Vishnu pressed into devotional service the entire 
complement of human emotions, from the tenderness of a 
doting mother to the terror of an abandoned child, but it was 
in the half-crazed, near-hysterical longing of a lover for his 
absent love that their fervor reached its peak: 

When will the time come when I shall see Him without inter- 
mission and place my crowned head at His feet? When will the 
time come when my tears of ecstasy shall flow on seeing the 
wonderful Lord? When will the time come when my mind gazing 
at His moon-like face will melt into Him? 

Kulasekhara Alvar 

A favorite allegory in Sufi tales concerns the shaikh who 
abdicates his eminence in the world and to the incomprehen- 
sion and disgust of those who had envied and respected him 
now lives only to gain the company of some simple wench who 
has won his heart. His beard mats up and his clothes become 
rags, for his thoughts are so completely on her that none 
remain for his own person. Even death is no deterrent, for 
whereas her continued absence is intolerable^ in her presence 
he could die in peace. 

15. Edna St. Vincent Milla'y, Conversation at Midnight (Harper and 
Brothers, 1937), p. 30. 


In the second mode, the accent falls on God's love for man. 

Posit a lover whose existence has centered for months in an 
anguished and unrequited yearning like that of the shaikh just 
depicted. Though his passion is spurned he nevertheless longs 
for nothing so much as to be in his beloved's presence: in her 
absence he consoles himself with recollections of the times he 
was with her and anticipations of ones when he will see her 
again. If after months of such seemingly hopeless longing the 
swain were to find that the princess was beginning to take an 
interest in him, could we imagine his state? Not only does he 
want, he is wanted; not only does he love, he is loved. And 
should it transpire that from a modest beginning the princess's 
regard for him were to rise to an intensity that rivaled his own 
— the intensity of his desperation when it seemed that his love 
was hopeless and of his rapture when it began to look as if it 
were not — would we then be able to follow his emotions to 
their Himalayan heights? It is on record that such are the 
emotions that visit the soul when it discovers that it is literally 
loved by the God who made and rules the universe. The 
following is the account of Mrs. Jonathan Edwards: 

Last night was the sweetest night I ever had in my life. I never 
before, for so long a time together, enjoyed so much of the light 
and rest and sweetness of heaven in my soul. . . . Part of the night 
I lay awake, sometimes asleep, and sometimes between sleeping 
and waking. But all night I continued in a constant, clear, and 
lively sense of the heavenly sweetness of Christ's excellent love, of 
his nearness to me, and of my dearness to him; with an inexpres- 
sibly sweet calmness of soul in an entire rest in him. I seemed to 
myself to perceive a glow of divine love come down from the heart 
of Christ in heaven into my heart in a constant stream, like a 
stream or pencil of sweet light.^^ 

In our analogy we spoke of the princess's love as rivaling the 
swain's, but in the present case God's love exceeds the soul's, 
for the soul is finite, with the consequence that what is total 

16. Quoted in James, Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 223. 


for it is no match for the love that flows from a source that is 
illimitable. It must have been this sense — the sense that the 
Lord of all Being loved them with a strength that exceeded 
their own, loved to the point of sacrificing his very Son for 
them — that empowered the early Christians to launch what 
numerically was to become the foremost religion in the world. 

The third and final element in the phenomenology of the 
soul's encounter with God emerges as we continue with Mrs. 
Edwards's account, which was interrupted. After describing 
her sense of God's love streaming toward her like a pencil of 
light, she writes: 

At the same time my heart and soul all flowed out in love to 
Christ, so that there seemed to be a constant flowing and reflowing 
of heavenly love, and I appeared to myself to float or swim, in 
these bright, sweet beams, like the motes swimming in the beams 
of the sun, or the streams of his light which come in at the window. 
I think that what I felt each minute was worth more than all the 
outward comfort and pleasure which I had enjoyed in my whole 
life put together. It was pleasure, without the least sting, or any 
interruption. It was a sweetness, which my soul was lost in; it 
seemed to be all that my feeble frame could sustain. . . . 

As I awoke early the next morning, it seemed to me that I had 
entirely done with myself. I felt that the opinions of the world 
concerning me were nothing, and that I had no more to do with 
any outward interest of my own than with that of a person whom 
I never saw. The glory of God seemed to swallow up every wish 
and desire of my heart. 

For our present purpose the principal point of this passage is 
contained in its opening sentence, which registers the sense of 
"a constant flowing and reflowing of heavenly love." Whereas 
in the first mode the accent was on man's love for God and in 
the second on God's love for man, the two are now equalized 
in full reciprocity. Yet more than reciprocity; in identity. In 
what, at risk of indignity, we are tempted to call a love loop — 
Dionysius calls it the "unerring revolution" — the soul per- 

17. Ibid. 


ceives that the love it directs toward God is none other than 
that which originated in God's love for it. It is the selfsame 
love, turned back on its point of origin — in the moment when 
Dante sees Beatrice in the way that transfigures his life for- 
ever, he sees her as God sees her, her and everything that is. 
Plotinus saw this point: "The fullest life is the fullest love, 
and the love comes from the celestial light which streams forth 
from the Absolute One" (Enneads, VI.7.23). Ibn 'Arabi makes 
the point as well: 

The soul . . . "sees" God not through itself, but through him; it 
loves only through Him, not by itself. . . . The soul is His organ of 
perception. [The soul's] sympathy with being is . . . the passion 
[God's] Presence arouses in the soul. Accordingly it is not by itself 
or even in conjunction with Him that the soul contemplates and 
loves, but through Him alone. . . . The soul is His organ. ... It 
is He who seeks and is sought for. He is the Lover and He is the 
Beloved. ^8 

St. John of the Cross says the same. Of the advanced state in 
which the soul is seized by the love of God he writes: 

The principal agent ... is God. For God secretly and quietly 
infuses into the soul loving knowledge and wisdom without any 
intervention of specific acts [on the soul's part]. The soul has then 
to walk . . . conducting itself passively, and having no diligence of 
its own but possessing this simple, pure and loving awareness.^' 

According to Ruysbroeck, "The love of God is an outpouring 
and an indrawing tide." 

Our account of the soul, the theme Plato esteemed to be 
"of large and more than mortal discourse" {Phaedrus, 246a), 
is complete. Having identified its essential tendency as "that 
veritable love, that sharp desire" (Plotinus) and its final object 
as Being, if one thinks "abstractly," or God in his personal 

18. Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi 
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), pp. 151-52. 

19. The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross, trans, by Allison Peers 
(London: Bums, Gates and Washboume, Ltd., 1934), Vol. Ill, pp. 76-77. 


mode if one does not, the way is clear to move to the final rung 
on the scale of reality and the deepest element in man. But 
lest it be inferred from this projected move that we do not 
take the soul's God seriously, that we regard him as no more 
than an edifying fiction or symbol,^" we close this section with 
words that count the more because written by the man who 
more than any other has secured for us the personal God with- 
out loading him with finality — the two things must be said 
together. Speaking of the levels within the self and the ascend- 
ing importance of those which, lying deeper, are more sub- 
stantial, Frithjof Schuon writes: 

According to some people, it is enough to convince oneself, as 
it were by auto-suggestion, that one is neither the body nor the 
mind. This truth is not realizable, however, until body and mind 
have conformed on their plane to what may be called the "Divine 
Will"; one cannot attain Atma without God or in opposition to 
God. The "personal Divinity" only allows those who adore Him 
to understand that He is not the absolute Reality.21 

We can see why this is so. To identify (merge) with what is 
pitted against us (feared and resented) is out of the question; 
only love can draw us, first toward, and then into, another. 
Only when the demandingness of separative existence (the 
/an /la-craving of body and mind) has fallen away, leaving us 
identified with the region of self that loves its matrix and 
knows its love to be reciprocated — only selves that are living 
at this barely separate level can think of taking the final step 

20. He is not a symbol. Or to speak precisely, only with respect to the 
plane above him does he serve as symbol. Viewed in relation to God's 
infinite mode his [>ersonal mode does point beyond itself. On its own 
plane, the celestial, it exists without qualification, and we must remember 
that the reality of that plane vastly exceeds our own. On our own plane the 
representations we attempt of God have inevitably a symbolic element in- 
asmuch as they can never rise to be their object's equal, but this does not 
keep them from being literally true in certain respects, as when they assert 
that God exists and that the degree of his existence exceeds our own. Sym- 
bolism is the science of the relationship between different levels of reality 
(Ghazali) and cannot be precisely understood without reference thereto. 

21. Frithjof Schuon, The Language of the Self (Madras: Genesh & Co., 
1959), pp. 54-55. 


of relinquishing their individuality entirely, if "thinking" has 
any application in a state that is on the verge of simply dis- 
solving into the Godhead. As long as the sense of separateness 
continues, which is to say in some degree until death, the self 
must love and worship the Other its life confronts, for to re- 
peat, this is the only attitude (affective stance) that can counter 
the alienation of separateness and cause it to diminish. To the 
degree that a soul worships, it does not demand to be "I," and 
so is not opposed in principle to the thought, should it arise, 
that "I am not my finite self; I am the Atman." It is in this 
way that an adoring soul is the only possible bridge to Spirit. 

4. Spirit 

If soul is the element in man that relates to God, Spirit is 
the element that is identical with Him — not with his personal 
mode, for on the celestial plane God and soul remain distinct, 
but with God's mode that is infinite. Spirit is the Atman that 
is Brahman, the aspect of man that is the Buddha-nature, the 
element in man which, exceeding the soul's full panoply, is 
that "something in the soul that is uncreated and uncreatable" 
(Eckhart). It is the true man in Lin Chi the Ch'an master's 
assertion that "beyond the mass of reddish flesh is the true 
man who has no title"; and the basis for the most famous of 
Sufi claims: Mansur al-Hallaj's assertion, "ana'l-Haqq, I am 
the Absolute Truth, or the True Reality." 

We speak of identity, and this is right, for on this final 
stratum the subject-object dichotomy is transcended. Still, 
man's finitude remains, which means that the identity must 
not be read simplistically. Spirit is Infinite, but man is finite 
because he is not Spirit only. His specifically human overlay — 
body, mind, and soul — veils the Spirit within him. As the Jains 
say, a lamp's flame may be bright, but let its chimney be 
coated with dust or soot and the lamplight will be dim. Spirit's 
presence in man does not render him omnipotent or omnis- 
cient, nor relieve him of limitations that dog even the greatest 


saints: "Why callest me good? there is none good but one, 
that is, God" (Matt. 19:17). But though it does not render 
man omnipotent. Spirit docs, as we might put the matter, 
remove his impotence.22 It does so by providing him with a 
vantage point from which he can see that his station requires 
the limitations his humanity imposes. By itself that realization 
would produce only resignation, but the something in man 
that enables him to see that he must be limited also does the 
limiting, if we may use this perhaps curious way of registering 
the fact that the Infinite cannot tolerate a second of its kind: 
some things are obvious. Spirit decrees that body, being 
corporeal, must naturally be limited. Man accepts that decree 
for his physical component; for his mind and soul as well, in 
their respective ways. Meanwhile his Spirit remains free, it 
being the sovereign that imposes the decree rather than the 
prisoner who submits to it. 

The shifting of the ballast of man's self-recognition from 
servant to Sovereign proceeds by stages. Following a Sufi 
formulation, we may distinguish between the Lore of Cer- 
tainty, the Eye of Certainty, and the Truth of Certainty, the 
first being likened to hearing about fire, the second to seeing 
fire, and the third to being burned by fire. Spirit is the bed- 
rock of our lifestream, but the waters that course over it are 
for the most part too roiled to allow the bed to be seen. Where 
the banks widen and the current slows, however, sediment set- 
tles and we glimpse our support. Always in this life some water 
intervenes to veil, but at the moment the point is the opposite 
one. Not only is the bed there throughout; it is truly the bed 
that we see even when we see it obscurely. Man is Spirit while 
not Spirit unalloyed. 

Back now to Lin Chi's "true man who has no title" residing 

22. "When my life opens up very clearly, I can't help, from the depths of 
my heart, wanting to bow. When the mind that wants to bow to enemies 
and friends and demons and gods and evils and Buddhas and good friends 
and bad people — when this feeling comes tumbling out of my deep life, 
then / am already master of the whole world, I control the entire world, I 
become friends with all human and other beings." Hara Akegarasu, "O 
New Yearl" Zen Notes. XXII, 1 (Jan, 1975), 3 (italics added). 


beyond the mass of reddish flesh. He has no title — is not man 
or woman, young or old, rich or poor — because as we spelled 
out at some length in the preceding chapter, the Infinite 
which Spirit overlaps defies positive characterization. Since 
"Spirit" and "Infinite" are, like "Atman" and "Brahman," 
but two words for a single reality, we summarize what was said 
about it under the caption "The Infinite." Though it is 
possible to intuit it directly, we can think of it only by invok- 
ing a double negative. Peripherally Spirit is without bound- 
aries; internally it is without barriers. It knows neither walls 
that encompass nor walls that divide. 

Between thought (which proceeds indirectly through con- 
cepts) and intuition (which directly identifies) lies a middle 
ground. We scarcely know what to call it. Symbolism? Art in 
its sacred sector? It uses the stones of earth to raise on its flat- 
lands spires that point toward heaven. This middle mode of 
concourse plays while logic works. It is unquestionably alert, 
while being in some respects passive to the point of dissocia- 
tion, for to shift gears an engine must disengage and pass 
through neutral. Playing with the second of the above stipula- 
tions about spirit — its indifference to internal divisions — ^we 
note first that it is possible for nondifferentiation to climb to 
the point where the world's divisions vanish completely. Rama- 
krishna reports his experience of this condition as follows: 

Suddenly the blessed Mother revealed Herself, The buildings 
with their different parts, the temple, and everything else vanished 
from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever, and in their stead I 
saw a limitless, infinite effulgent Ocean of Consciousness, As far 
as the eye could see, the shining billows were madly rushing at me 
from all sides with a terriffic noise, to swallow me upl What was 
happening in the outside world I did not know; but within me 
there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss.23 

But though corporeal distinctions can be thus erased, the 
instances in which they are erased constitute an exceptional 

23, Nikhilananda, Ramakrishna: Prophet of New India (New York: 
Harper and Brothers, 1948), pp, 9-10, 


class. Normally distinctions remain but are softened. Or they 
remain precise while changing from barriers to bridges. 

"I," table, flower, fragrance, the chirping of birds, are all un- 
deniably present, but being in reality nonexistent they do not 
present themselves as solid, self-subsistent entities. They are trans- 
parent and permeable. Reflecting each other, interpenetrating each 
other, and dissolving themselves into each other, they form an 
integral whole which is nothing other than the direct appearance 
of the primary level of Reality. In this sense, sensible perception, 
wherein distinctions loom so large, is reduced almost to nullity. It 
loses its functional basis, it does not work properly, in the presence 
of the trans-subjective and trans-objective awareness of the inter- 
fusion of all things where "gnat," instead of presenting itself as an 
independent external entity, means rather its identification with 
Being and all other things so that they end up by being fused 
into one.24 

In and through the body and ahamkara (ego sense) of every 
human being Lin Chi's man with no title is untiringly alive. 
He is not the personal God; he is the all-embracing Infinite. 
He is the actor who has internalized the play so completely 
that he identifies more with it than with his role in it: he will 
make the audience despise him if the play requires that he do 
so. We can generalize this image. Every figure presupposes a 
ground against which it is seen or thought. But since in the 
final analysis the individual could not exist without its ground 
or be conceived without presupposing it, the two are — in last 
analysis, we repeat — inseparable. In a way that is absolutely 
crucial, a thing's ground is an aspect of the thing itself. Seen 
with the "eye of the heart," the organ of spiritual vision, this 
body of flesh and blood which in corporeal respects is frail 
as foam, fleeting as dew, is at the same time, in this very 
moment and on this very spot, the infinite and eternal Life 
instancing itself in this particular respect. Normally, as we 
have noted, the perception does not involve the total dissolu- 
tion of finitude in the ocean of Godhead. Rather it is the 

24. Adapted from^ the writings of Toshihiko Izutsu. 


experience of finitude as infinity, or temporality as eternity, the 
opposites blended in ineffable yet palpable whole. It is as if 
an iceberg were suddenly to realize that it is H2O.25 

The fact that the notion of the Infinite appeals to us is itself 
evidence of Spirit's reality, for metaphysical arguments would 
never convince were there not within us a trace of that which 
they set out to communicate — if the certainty they seek to 
awaken were not already sleeping in the substance of our 
souls. At the same time we resist the notion, for it requires 
that we shift our identification from the parts of our being 
that press palpably upon us. The writing of this chapter 
happened to span a Christmas in which there was a two-year- 
old in the house, and it became evident again how strong the 
ahamkara or ego sense is ingrained within us. One had remem- 
bered from one's own children the insatiability of the ego's 
wants: the Christmases when what counted was not what the 
presents were but their quantity, with the inevitable tears 
when the number proved finite. It took a grandchild, however, 
to revive the memory of an earlier stage when the life task was 
to firm up the sense of selfhood itself. At this state not even 
numbers mattered as much as who the numbers were for. 
Before each present was opened, it was imperative that it 
be paraded and acknowledgment secured from each person 
assembled that "This is my present. This present is minel" 
The sands of the Sahara, and a grain pops up to announce: 
I exist! 

Once personal identity is established the issue shifts to what 

25. The image of ice and water "is all the truer in that the frozen 
crystalisation appears to be far more substantial than unfrozen water; and 
yet when a large piece of ice melts the result is a surprisingly small quantity 
of water. Analogously the lower worlds [the terrestrial and intermediate 
planes], for all their seeming reality, depend for their existence upon a 
relatively unample Presence compared with that which confers on the 
Paradises [the celestial plane] their everlasting bliss; yet here again, ever- 
lastingness is not Eternity, nor are the joys of these Paradises more than 
shadows of the Absolute Beatitude of the Supreme Paradise [the Infinite]." 
Martin Lings, What Is Sufism? (Berkeley: University of California Press, 
1975). pp. 70-7 L 


that identity is to be attached to. An eighth birthday and the 
boy was happy until he went to bed and the light was out. 
Then, in the aloneness of the dark, time paid him its first visit, 
whispering that he would never be seven again. And the 
prospect was intolerable. Since seven was what the boy sensed 
himself to be, the day that had just ended being insufficient to 
offset his identification with the plans and projects of the days 
and weeks that had preceded it, time's notice fell as death 
warrant. The death of himself-as-seven was the death of him, 
the only "him" that at the time was in view. He jumped from 
his bed and ran to his parents sobbing, "Take the presents 
back; I don't want them. I just want to be seven." 

We smile at the boy's naivete, but we know what he meant. 
For with the exception of those supernatural moments when 
reality breaks through the carapace of time like lightning and 
reveals the landscape in which we are infinite, every human 
has his age seven, his less than total self, with which he 
myopically identifies. The referent is elastic. An addict while 
his tissues scream knows himself as little more than a demand- 
ing body. At the other end of the spectrum are the times 
when one's cup runs over to the point where it would be easy 
to lay down one's life if the need arose. But almost invariably 
there is some point where selfhood is sensed to end and the 
not-self begin. This not-self, too, can be variously viewed: it 
can appear as a predominantly hostile world of alien objects 
and circumstances that kick and buffet, or as everlasting arms 
from whose embrace it is impossible to fall. One must come 
to the point where they are seen as the latter before one can 
take the final step in self-abandonment and identify with one's 
surround, which is why the preceding section asserted that the 
door that leads from soul to spirit is the door of love: love of 
Being-as-a-whole or of the God who is its Lord. For Spirit to 
permeate the self's entirety, the components of the self must 
be aligned: body in temperance, mind in understanding 
(Gautama's Right Views), and soul in love. But the immediate 
point is that even when the environment is seen to be benign. 


as long as it presents itself as distinct and other there will be 
imponderables which must be written off to God's inscrutable 
ways. The only alternative is to remove the dichotomy itself. 

The removal is effected by perceiving the "other" as one's 
destiny. As we despair of equaling a formulation of this point 
that has come our way, we quote it at some length. 

There is no radical distinction to be made between what a man 
is given in the way of mind, emotional make-up and body on the 
one hand and, on the other, what he is given in the way of out- 
ward circumstances and environment. Together they form a 
significant whole and all are aspects of a particular individual life. 

The being between birth and death scrawls — in matter and in 
events — a pattern which, taken as a whole, expresses his unique 
identity. This man, So-and-So, is not a sealed personality moving 
through an alien environment. He is the sum total of all that he 
does and all that happens to him and all that comes within his 
range, spread out (from our point of view) in time and space, but 
a single, timeless fact in the mind of God. What we are and where 
we are cannot ultimately be divided. And to accept our destiny is 
to accept ourselves, recognizing that what happens to us is as much 
a part of our nature — in the widest sense — as the most intimate 
contours of our own selfhood. It is sometimes said that the fatal 
bullet has its victim's name upon it and fits no other flesh. 

In the last resort, a man looks at the love or anger or fear within 
himself and says, So this is me. Looks at his withered hand or 
wounded foot and says. So this is me. Looks at the woman he^has 
married or the garden he has planted and says, So this is me. Looks 
finally upon his enemy and up>on his death and says. So this is me. 
But in saying this he bears witness to the fact that he is also in- 
comparably more than an itemised list of the elements that make 
up his individuality and its inseparable field of action. 

And in acknowledging so much that is a part of ourselves (since 
our boundaries extend to the furthest horizons we can see from our 
particular vantage point) we make an act of recognition which 
actualises what was inherent in us from the start — almost as though 
we existed only to discover what was always there — recognising 
our name-tag on everything that comes our way. But the part of 


US that is our destiny, streaming in upon us in the form of "out- 
side" events through the course of time, can be recognised as 
belonging to our owh particular pattern only when it has hap- 
pened. The religious man can say, "Thy will be done!" as a state- 
ment of his intention to accept this will when it has been done and 
is apparent to him, but it is not our nature to be able to foresee 
the future except under the most unusual circumstances. In gen- 
eral, acceptance of destiny is acceptance of what has happened, not 
of what might happen (but might be prevented).26 

Assuming that the acceptance in question is in the mode of 
affirmation and not solely resignation, acceptance of one's 
destiny as part of one's selfhood is an aspect of that love of 
being or God that opens us to the Infinite. But enough: the 
point has been made or it will not be made here. We close 
the chapter with a Sufi tale, "The Tale of the Sands," that 
epitomizes what this section has tried to say. 

A stream, from its source in far-off mountains, passing through 
every kind and description of countryside, at last reached the sands 
of the desert. Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream 
tried to cross this one, but it found that as fast as it ran into the 
sand, its waters disappeared. 

It was convinced, however, that its destiny was to cross this 
desert, and yet there was no way. Now a hidden voice, coming from 
the desert itself, whispered: 'The Wind crosses the desert, and so 
can the stream.' 

The stream objected that it was dashing itself against the sand, 
and only getting absorbed: that the wind could fly, and this was 
why it could cross a desert. 

'By hurtling in your own accustomed way you cannot get across. 
You will either disappear or become a marsh. You must allow the 
wind to carry you over, to your destination.' 

But how could this happen? 'By allowing yourself to be absorbed 
in the wind.' 

This idea was not acceptable to the stream. After all, it had 
never been absorbed before. It did not want to lose its individuality. 

26. Gai Eaton, "Man as Viceroy," Studies in Comparative Religion, 
Autumn 1973, pp. 239-40. 


And, once having lost it, how was one to know that it could ever be 

'The wind,' said the sand, 'performs this function. It takes up 
water, carries it over the desert, and then lets it fall again. Falling 
as rain, the water again becomes a river.' 

'How can I know that this is true?' 

'It is so, and if you do not believe it, you cannot become more 
than a quagmire, and even that could take many, many years; and 
it certainly is not the same as a stream.' 

'But can I not remain the same stream that I am today?' 

'You cannot in either case remain so,' the whisper said. 'Your 
essential part is carried away and forms a stream again. You are 
called what you are even today because you do not know which 
part of you is the essential one.' 

When he heard this, certain echoes began to arise in the thoughts 
of the stream. Dimly, he remembered a state in which he — or some 
part of him, was it? — had been held in the arms of a wind. He also 
remembered — or did he? — that this was the real thing, not neces- 
sarily the obvious thing, to do. 

And the stream raised his vapour into the welcoming arms of 
the wind, which gently and easily bore it upwards and along, let- 
ting it fall softly as soon as they reached the roof of a mountain, 
many, many miles away. And because he had had his doubts, the 
stream was able to remember and record more strongly in his mind 
the details of the experience. He reflected, 'Yes, now I have learned 
my true identity.' 

The stream was learning. But the sands whispered: 'We know, 
because we see it happen day after day: and because we, the sands, 
extend from the riverside all the way to the mountain.' 

And that is why it is said that the way in which the Stream of 
Life is to continue on its journey is written in the Sands.27 

27. Idres Shah, Tales of the Dervishes (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1970), 
pp. 23-24. 

All sacred things must have their place. 


5. T^E PIace of SciENCE 

The modern West is the first society to view the physical 
world as a closed system. It is customary for those who protest 
this view to do so by parading the dire consequences that it 
has occasioned, but this will not be our tack — not, we hasten 
to say, because we think that it is mistaken but because we 
do not know if it is or not. In principle every charge that can 
be made against modernity — and by now who does not know 
them by heart? — can be matched by an equal indictment of 
antiquity: Hitler by Attila, Auschwitz by Egypt's burial of 
live slaves with their pharaohs, and Rome's use of Christians 
for human torches. Who can not see the Nazi in all history? 
To cut through the balance of charge and countercharge 
requires instinct, an intuitive sense of how it has felt to live 
in alternative societies, and this sense we confess we lack. 
True, a logical point announces itself now and again, asking 
if the prospect of an infinite and eternal beatitude which the 
traditional perspective held out to man would not have exer- 
cised on balance a leavening influence, but this is the note of 
a distant horn, too faint to be heard in argument. Our 
objection to regarding the physical world as a closed system is 
not that the view is unfortunate but that it is untrue. To ask 
whether to believe what is untrue can in the long run be 
fortunate is again to turn thought toward pragmatic waters, 
and we refuse to be diverted. 

This book opened by saying that it was modern science that 
reduced the West's view of reality to its material stratum — ■ 
not science itself, but an unwarranted conclusion that its 



spectacular success engendered: the conclusion that no strata 
other than the one science connects with exist. It is now time 
to turn the tables and ask if, once it is relieved of this un- 
warranted appendage, science does not stand in supporting 
relation to the traditional outlook. The most interesting ver- 
sion of the question is: Can science itself remain housed in 
being's basement? but since this version must be answered 
by scientists themselves, we content ourselves with a weaker 
variant. Not, Does science require transphysical domains? but 
rather. Does it hint of their existence? will be the question 
for us here. 

The point is this: Science, like most things, has two sides. 
If one takes what turns up on its viewfinder as exhaustive of 
reality, the consequence (as we have seen) is scientism and the 
materialism it argues. If, on the other hand, one begins by 
realizing what Chapter 1 argued is now almost a closed case, 
namely that the viewfinder is in principle limited, one then 
looks at science for clues as to the nature of what lies outside 
it. Clues are not proofs, of course, but they are something, and 
to follow their lead is the present chapter's object. If "a symbol 
is something in a lower 'known and wonted' domain which 
the traveller considers not only for its own sake but also and 
above all in order to have an intuitive glimpse of the 'univer- 
sal and strange' reality which corresponds to it in each of the 
hidden higher domains,''^ anything, as We have noted more 
than once, can qualify. Even science. If Allah "has not dis- 
dained to use even the gnat as symbol" (Koran), there is 
nothing unlikely in the notion that man's brightest intellectual 
exploit may likewise house meanings beyond those it wears 
on its sleeve. 

What are these meanings as they bear on the human spirit? 

They show themselves in a series of parallels between science 
and religion. Both claim that: (1) Things are not as they seem; 
(2) the other-than-the-seeming is a "more"; indeed, a stupen- 

I. Abu Bakr Siraj Ed-Din, The Book of Certainty (New York: Samuel 
Weiser Inc., 1970), pp. 50-51. 


dous more; (3) this more cannot be known in ordinary ways; 
(4) it can, however, be known in ways appropriate to it; (5) 
these appropriate ways require cultivation; (6) and they 
require instruments. We proceed, now, to detail these parallels. 

/. Things Are Not As They Seem 

One of the upshots of modern science has taken the form 
of an expose: it has unmasked the claims of man's sense 
receptors to disclose the world as it actually is. My senses tell 
me that the desk I am leaning on is solid. Not so, says science; 
if I could shrink to the size of an electron I would see that it 
is mostly empty: the ratio of matter to space in it is on the 
order of a baseball in a ballpark. Or my senses tell me that the 
desk is static. Wrong again, says physics; it is a hive of activity 
with electrons circling their nuclei a million billion times a 
second, or (in undulatory terms) with electrons vibrating 
more times each second than the number of seconds that have 
elapsed since the earth's crust was formed. The desk is com- 
pacted power — closer to pure energy than to the lifeless block 
my hands and eyes report. These are, of course, but samples. 
Wherever we turn, our senses bounce back fictions. It is not 
just that they do not inform us of nature's mien; they are 
expressly devised not to inform us. Had they presented us with 
the way things are we could not have survived. If we perceived 
atoms or quanta instead of cars we would be run over. Had our 
ancestors seen electrons instead of bears they would have been 

We now swing into this chapter's central exercise: to place 
beside each of the points about science that we list its counter- 
part in the traditional (as opposed to modern), religious (as 
opposed to secular), or humanistic (as opposed to scientistic) 
outlook; in this book the three adjectives are largely synony- 
mous. Anticipating physics' discovery that our senses deceive 
is the traditional claim that our sensibilities mislead. No more 
than man's unaided senses disclose the nature of the physical 
universe do his standard sensibilities discern the world's 


import: the meaning of life, history, or existence in general. 
"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard . . . the things which God 
hath prepared" (I Cor. 2:9). To which C. S. Lewis adds: 

Christianity claims to be telling us about another world, about 
something behind the world we can touch and hear and see. You 
may think the claim false; but if it were true, what it tells us would 
be bound to be difficult — at least as difficult as modem physics, and 
for the same reason.^ 

Sufi tales almost invariably turn on a double reading of 
events; at a decisive turn in the story the ordinary perception 
of what has transpired is countered by an alternative that spins 
the situation around and shows it in a light that is diametri- 
cally opposite to the one that had prevailed. It is the "fool" 
who turns out to have been wise; the trinket, bought for a 
song and soon discarded, is in fact made of pure gold; the 
man who is ignored because he is dressed in rags is the king 
in disguise. You never know! The Indian doctrine of maya 
generalizes the point. The life that we see is a tissue of mis- 
readings. He "saw life steadily and saw it whole," wrote 
Matthew Arnold of Sophocles. To a degree, perhaps, but who 
really attains this height? In exactly the way that our eyes are 
blind to all but the limited band of lightwaves they are tuned 
to, our hearts disregard events that lie outside their own self- 
interest. Moreover, the fashioned worlds that we do see and 
feel are governed by laws of perspective: objects close at hand 
seem bigger than those that are distant, and events of the 
moment more important than those of tomorrow. "So teach 
us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto 
wisdom" (Ps. 90:12). What a curious prayer — that we be 
taught that we must die! Who doesn't know that? we say, 
until on reflection we realize that no one knows it, not in a 
way that enables him to live each day as if it were his last.' 

2. Condensed from The Problem of Pain (New York: The Macmillan 
Company, 1943). 

3. "Of all the world's wonders, which is the most wonderful?" 

"That no man, though he sees others dying all around him, believes that 
he himself will die" (Mahabharata). 


Monks keep skulls on their tables to help them remember. 

Maya derives from the root ma, "to measure, build, or 
form"; it is cognate to "magic," the production, whether by 
supernatural means or by mere camouflage, of an appearance 
that is in some way deceptive. When the Indians say the world 
is maya and we translate the word as illusion we should not 
take this to mean that the world does not exist at all, in any 
way or form. There is indeed a moon-larger-than-the-f)olestar, 
namely the one we see; we err only if we credit our perception 
with more objectivity than it deserves. Maya signals not that 
the world is unreal but that the way it presents itself to us is 
tricky. The carpet it unrolls before our feet and invites us 
onto is a magic carpet: it is enchanted — its fabric is in im- 
portant part a fabrication. Maya is caveat, a warning, a call 
to alertness lest we be duped by the spell the world casts over 
us, whence the Buddha's insistence on "right mindfulness" and 
Islam's on dhikr or remembrance. "Life is the passage of an 
individual dream, a consciousness, an ego through a cosmic 
and collective dream. Death withdraws the particular dream 
from the general dream and tears out the roots which the 
former has sent down into the latter. The universe is a dream 
woven of dreams: the Self alone is awake."^ 

2. The Other-Than-the-Seeming Is a "More'*; Indeed, 
a Stupendous More 

Science and tradition agree, we see, in insisting that the 
way things really are is radically different from the way they 
seem. They also agree in claiming -that this "other" than 
the way things appear lies in the direction of more rather 
than less. It outstrips anything everyday experience might 

As science is essentially the domain of the quantifiable, the 
more that it has brought to light is registered primarily in 

4. Frithjof Schuon, Spiritual Perspectives and Human Facts (London: 
Perennial Books, 1969), p. 169. 


numbers.^ We noted in the opening chapter of this book that 
it takes light from the closest sizable galaxy more than 2 
million light-years to reach us, and the galaxies in the uni- 
verse number in the billions. If we look in the opposite direc- 
tion the figures are equally incomprehensible. Avogadro's 
number tells us that the molecules in 4i drams of water 
(roughly half an ounce) number 6.023 X 10^' — roughly 600,- 
000 billion billion. 

To this more in the world's size that science reports tradition 
juxtaposes a qualitative more-than-we-normally-suppose. "I 
consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth 
comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us," Paul 
wrote to the Romans (8:18), while Gregory of Nyssa put the 
matter as follows: 

You are made in the likeness of that nature which surpasses all 
understanding. , . . Nothing in all creation can equal your 
grandeur. ... If you realize this you will no longer marvel even at 
the heavens. . . . For the heavens pass away, but you will abide for 
all eternity with him who is forever. 

The heading of this section suggested that the "more" to 
which science and tradition point, each in its own way, is not 
only more but stupendously more. The items that have been 
cited may already have made this case, but for the sake of the 
record it should be noted that they are only a beginning. 
Already by midcentury Fred Hoyle could say for science that 
"no literary imagination could have invented a story ^one- 
hundredth part as fantastic as the sober facts that have been 
unearthed,"* yet the quarter-century that has intervened has 

5. Primarily but not exclusively. Along with its quantitative revelations 
science has discovered nature's elegance, too, to be beyond what had been 
supposed. "If there is one important result that comes out of our inquiry 
into the nature of the Universe it is this: when by patient inquiry we learn 
the answer to any problem, we always find, both as a whole and in detail, 
that the answer thus revealed is finer in concept and design than anything 
we could ever have arrived at by a random guess." Fred Hoyle, The Nature 
of the Universe (New York: New American Library, 1950), p. 128. 

6. Ibid., p. 120. 


dwarfed even his purview. While microphysics probes for 
quarks that make the subatomic powers we have thus far 
named look immense, things 100 billion billion times smaller 
than the electron^ John Wheeler tells us that the entire 
universe we know — 13 billion years old, 26 billion light-years 
across, filled with galaxies that too are now estimated to be in 
the billions — is but one of who knows how many likely trajec- 
tories of universes across a gigantic platform of superspace 
whose dimensions are not three or four but infinite. As for 
levels, though to enter even a single level of smallness beyond 
the one that is now being explored would require that we 
build an accelerator roughly the size of our planet, David 
Bohm thinks that the total number of levels in nature prob- 
ably equals Wheeler's dimensions. They too are infinite.* 

Quality cannot be precisely quantified, but it is interesting 
to note that when tradition uses numbers to suggest qualitative 
degrees it gives the astronomers a run for their money. 
Shankara gives us a notion of the extravagance of his vision 
of the summum bonum when he says that it "cannot be ob- 
tained except through the merits of 100 billion well-lived 
incarnations."® The Taittiriya Upanishad goes into the matter 
in greater detail. 

Let there be a noble young man who is well read [in the Vedas], 
very swift, firm, and strong, and let the whole world be full of 
wealth for him — that is one measure of human bliss. 

One hundred times that human bliss is one measure of the bliss 
of human gandharvas [demigods, the musicians of heaven], and 

7. We now know that it was naive to think that a "vacuum" is empty; it 
is populated, but by things that are utterly' small. By the well-founded 
law that the shorter the wavelength the larger the energy that is compressed 
into it, we arrive at the conclusion that "in a thimbleful of vacuum there 
is more . . . energy than would be released by all the atomic bomb fuel in 
the universe." Quoted in Harold Schilling, The New Consciousness in 
Science and Religion (Philadelphia: United Church Press, 1973), p. 110. 

8. The infinities of science are such, of course, only with respect to the 
categories in question, none of which comes close to being unlimited in all 
respects. Strictly speaking, there is only one Infinite, but that point is not 
at issue here. 

9. Crest-Jewel of Discrimination (New York: New American Library, 
1970), p. 35. 


likewise of a great sage learned in the Vedas and free from desires. 

One hundred times that bliss of the divine gandharvas is one 
measure of the bliss of the Fathers, enjoying their celestial life. . . . 

One hundred times that bliss of the Fathers is one measure of 
the bliss of the devas [demigods] who are endowed with heavenly 
bodies through the merit of their lawful duties. . . . 

One hundred times that bliss of the devas is one measure of the 
bliss of the devas who are endowed with heavenly bodies through 
the merit of the Vedic sacrifices. . . . 

One hundred times that bliss of the sacrificial gods is one 
measure of the bliss of the thirty-three devas who live on the 
sacrificial offerings. . . . 

One hundred times that bliss of the thirty-three devas is one 
measure of the bliss of Indra. . . . 

One hundred times that bliss of Indra is one measure of the bliss 
of Brihaspati. . . . 

One hundred times that bliss of Brihaspati is one measure of 
the bliss of Prajapati. . . . 

One hundred times that bliss of Prajapati is one measure of the 
Bliss of Brahman [II. viii. 1-4], 

for a total of one-followed-by-twenty-zeros times the bliss of 
the happiest worlding: 10'^.^** As Atman, this supernal bliss 
resides obscured in each one of us. Typically, however, India 
does not bother with such number games, but moves right to 
the point. Like Wheeler's dimensions and Bohm's levels. Brah- 
man's ananda (bliss) is infinite. 

5. In Their Further Reaches the World^s "Mores" 
Cannot Be Known in Ordinary Wceys 

What science shows, a physicist has recently observed, is that 
our view of things has no chance of being true unless it is 

10. Cf. Chapter 11 of The Diamond Sutra: If galaxies equal in number 
to the square of the number of grains of sand in the Ganges River were to 
be filled with gold, silver, lapis-lazuli, crystal, agate, red pearls, and cornel- 
ian, the treasure thus amassed would be less by far than that derivable 
from four lines of The Diamond Sutra. Condensed from Buddhist Wisdom 
Books, trans, by Edward Conze (London: Geoige Allen 8c Unwin Ltd., 1958), 
p. 49. 


astonishing. But astonishment admits of degrees. With the 
exception of a footnote, the astonishing aspects of science we 
have thus far noted pertain to size and number. These already 
border on the incomprehensible — who can concretely imagine 
billions of billions? — but in the sequence of science's sur- 
realistic uncoverings they are only the start. There comes a 
point where the nature science tracks turns a corner our minds 
cannot maneuver, leaving us, at that point, not astonished but 

We have been treating science as basically the domain of 
the quantifiable and shall continue to do so — mathematics, we 
repeat, is its natural language — but this need not blind us to 
qualitative differences that do appear within it. The examples 
of these that are usually cited — the so-called secondary qual- 
ities of color, temperature, solidity/liquef action, and the like 
that characterize the meso- but not the micro-world — are 
not the interesting ones here, for the ww^ science deals with 
these continues to be spatio-temporal-quantitative. More inter- 
esting is the qualitative change that at a given point comes 
over science's epistemology, its knowing process. 

The shift occurs when the physicist comes upon the very 
large and fast in nature, or conversely the very small; the 
former has spawned relativity theory, while the latter has 
required the invention of a new kind of mechanics especially 
designed for it, namely, quantum mechanics. Though these 
disciplines are occupied with opposite ends of the size con- 
tinuum, they are partners in having worked man into a new 
epistemological situation. 

It is customary to describe this situation by saying that 
nature in these reaches is "counterintuitive," meaning that it 
disregards and violates — transcends — the categories of space 
and time as we intuit them. 

As human beings we live, as we have seen, in a middle 
kingdom; a meso-kingdom flanked by a micro-kingdom within 
and a macro-kingdom without. That our senses detect the meso- 
kingdom only — this too has been noted. The point now to be 


added is that the registers of nature that flank the one we 
directly encounter differ from ours not only in degree but in 
kind. On these outer registers nature behaves in ways that 
are passing strange. They are foreign to the point of being 
not merely unorthodox but downright scandalous. Put to- 
gether two facts — (1) the fact that nature at its edges performs 
in ways that differ in kind from the way it meets our senses, 
and (2) the fact that our imaginations have nothing to build 
with save the building blocks our senses provide — and we 
arrive at the point the phrase "counterintuitive" was coined to 
make. In its further reaches the physical universe dons forms 
and functions we cannot visualize, in imagination any more 
than with the eyes in our heads. There is no way in which we 
can image them. 

Light is the standard example, though actually the point 
concerns all matter. Is light wave or particle? Certain experi- 
ments show it to behave like one, others like the other. But 
waves and particles are different kinds of things. A particle is 
an entity like a stone; waves are like the ripples that spread 
from the stone's being dropped into a lake. To describe waves 
requires introducing the notion of movement (changes over 
periods of time) — otherwise we have only static ridges — 
whereas a stone can be described nontemporally. As we cannot 
visualize something that is simultaneously both rock and 
ripple, we would like to know which light really is. Hubris, 
the physicist snorts; must one know everything? If there is a 
something underlying wave and particle which light really 
is, it is a something for which our senses provide no analogue 
and which we can therefore never hope to image concretely. 
So with virtually everything in nature's recesses. In those 
never-never, through-the-looking-glass abodes, parallel lines 
meet, curves get you from star to star more quickly than do 
Euclid's straight lines, a particle will pass through alternative 
apertures simultaneously without dividing, time shrinks and 
expands, electrons (taking their cue from St. Thomas's angels 
who simply will themselves into different locations and find 


themselves there) jump orbit without traversing the interven- 
ing distance, and particles fired in opposite directions, each at 
a speed approximating that of light, separate from each other 
no faster than the speed of light. 

The normal reaction to a first exposure to relativity is: "I think 
I understand it; I just don't believe it." Normally it takes a physi- 
cist about five years of contact with the ideas before he feels com- 
fortable with them — not because they are complex or obscure, but 
just terribly strange. 

The rule of the game is to accept the consequences of the postu- 
late no matter how weird. We must never ask how they can be so; 
we accept that they must be so, and see if any of the strange things 
they imply actually contradict our experience. The reader is im- 
plored to have faith, in the hope that all will turn out self-con- 
sistent in the end.^^ 

One might put the matter this way: If modern science 
showed that our senses are false witnesses, postmodern science 
is showing that the human imagination is comparably defec- 
tive.^2 It simply was not devised to reflect nature's total gamut. 
For to repeat, imagination has no alternative but to build its 
scenarios out of the photographic frames our senses provide, 
which frames draw from only a tiny band in matter's varied 
continuum. It was this that provoked Haldane's famous "mut- 
terance" that "the universe is not only queerer than we 
suppose, but queerer than we can suppose." David Finkel- 
stein's sequel is that respecting nature "we haven't the capacity 
to imagine anything crazy enough to stand a chance of being 

The limitations to which imagination is subject hold equally 

11. Robert March, Physics for Poets (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970), 
p. 128. 

12. "Contemporary physics [spells] the end of all hopes of interpreting 
the . . . elements ... of physical reality in sensory (visual-tactual) terms. 
Human imagination is clearly incompetent to provide the material from 
which a satisfactory model of matter can be built. . . . The possibility 
of . . . pictorial . . . models of the transphenomenal level [is] forever 
excluded." Milii dapek. Philosophical Impact of Contemporary Physics 
(Princeton: D. van Nostrand Co., 1961), pp. 398-99. 


for language, for one step removed, it too derives from our 
sensed and workaday world. The distortions that result from 
trying to force nature into pictures of it— of a kind with those 
that occur when we try to chart our three-dimensional world 
on a two-dimensional Mercator map: Greenland always bal- 
loons absurdly — are mimed by the "howlers" that arise when 
we try to describe its distant regions in everyday speech. The 
polite word for the predicaments language leads to in these 
areas is "paradox," but the unvarnished fact is contradiction. 
"If we ask whether the electron's position changes with time/' 
writes Robert Oppenheimer, "we must say 'No'; if we ask 
whether the position of the electron remains the same, we 
must say 'No'; if we ask whether the electron is at rest, we 
must say 'No'; if we ask whether it is in motion, we must say 
'No.' " 

On hearing a statement of this sort Francois Mauriac shook 
his head, remarking, "What this professor says is far more 
incredible than what we poor Christians believe." Actually, 
however, this is not so. We saw in the preceding section that 
the value claims of the traditions fully equal science's numeri- 
cal claims; they climax in ens perfectissimum, perfect being, 
and perfection is the value equivalent of infinity. The paral- 
lelism continues as we now note that this value apex exceeds 
imagery^^ and ordinary discourse fully as much as do 
the data of quantum mechanics and relativity theory. The 
philosophical equivalent of "counterintuitive" is "ineffable" 
or "apophatic." At first, Dionysius the Areopagite tells us, the 
divine presence 

is shown walking uf>on those heights of His holy places which are 
perceived by the mind; [but] then It breaks forth, even from those 
things that are beheld . . . and plunges the true initiate into the 
Darkness of Unknowing wherein he renounces all the apprehen- 

13. "I do not admit at all that one who examines the realities by reason- 
ing makes use of images," Plato observes in Phaedo (lOOA), having made 
clear that by "realities" he means things that reside at the upper end 
of the ontological continuum. 


sions of his understanding and is wrapped in that which is wholly 
intangible and invisible. 

Ruysbroeck concurs: 

Enlightened men are . . . lifted above reason into a bare and 
imageless vision wherein lies the eternal indrawing summons of the 
Divine Unity; and with an imageless and bare understanding they 
. . . reach the summit of their spirits. There, their bare understand- 
ing is drenched through by the Eternal Brightness.^^ 

The more we try to comprehend Perfection or even the 
heavens pictorially, the more credibility drains out of them, 
leaving us with cardboard cutouts of pearly gates and streets 
of gold, sloe-eyed houris or thousand-armed divinities. If, 
perceiving this, we retreat from visualization to abstract depic- 
tions, we find that propositions serve us no better than they 
did Oppenheimer. They land us in contradictions: "the wall 
of the Paradise in which Thou, Lord, dwellest is built of con- 
tradictories."^^ Notwithstanding the infinite difference be- 
tween God and man, Christ is fully both. The persons of the 
Trinity are completely distinct and completely fused; they are 
fused but not confused, as the Creeds have it. Or the mystical 
experience. "We shall find," writes W. T. Stace, 

that paradoxicality is one of the common characteristics of all mys- 
ticism. . . . The assertion of this new kind of consciousness is com- 
pletely paradoxical. One way of bringing out the paradox is to 
point out that what we are left with here, when the contents of 
consciousness are gone, is a kind of consciousness which has no 
objects. It is not a consciousness of anything, yet it is still con- 
sciousness. . . . Another aspect of the paradox is that this pure 
consciousness is simultaneously both positive and negative, some- 
thing and nothing, a fullness and emptiness. It is pure peace, 
beatitude, joy . . . but ... it is quite correct to say also that when 

14. The Divine Names and The Mystical Theology, trans, by C. E. Rolt 
(London: S.P.C.K., 1971), p. 194. 

15. Quoted in W. T. Stace, The Teachings of the Mystics (New York: New 
American Library, 1%0), p. 62. 

16. Nicholas of Cusa, De Visione Dei, Ch. IX, fin. 


we empty out all objects and contents of the mind there is nothing 
whatever left. . . . The commonest metaphor for the positive side 
is light and for the negative side darkness. . . . We must not say 
that what we have here is a light in the darkness. For that would 
be no paradox. The paradox is that the light is the darkness, and 
the darkness is the light.^'^ 

If we should like to tighten to identity the similarity between 
such statements and Oppenheimer's, we can do so easily. "The 
depths of the Holy Spirit," the Philokalia tells us, "are not as 
the depths of the sea; they are the living waters of eternal 
life. The mind enters therein after relinquishing everything 
visible and mental [discursive] and moves and turns motion- 
lessly among those incomprehensible things."^^ "He is both at 
rest and in motion, and yet is in neither state."^® 

4. The "Mores^* That Cannot Be Known in Ordinary Ways 
Do, However, Admit of Being Knoxvn in Ways That Are 

From the point of view of ordinary langfuage, the further 
reaches of both nature and spirit lie in the domain of the in- 
expressible. Or to put it the other way, they can be voiced 
only on pain of contradiction. It is as though, unable to say 
green, we were forced to say that a If af is both yellow and blue 
while being neither. 

But though the domains in question cannot be known by 
way of imagery and consistent description, they can be kilbwn 
in ways that are tailored to their exceptional referents. The 
epistemological device for discerning matter's farther reaches 
is mathematics: nature can no longer be consistently imaged 
or described in ordinary language, but it can be consistently 

17. Teachings of the Mystics, pp. 16, 22-23. 

18. E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer, Writings from the Philokalia 
on the Prayer of the Heart (London: Faber and Faber, 1951), p. 132 (italics 

19. Dionysius the Areopagite, The Divine Names and The Mystical 
Theology, p. 143. 


conceived through equations-^" The comparably specialized 
way of knowing reality's highest transcorporeal reaches is the 
mystic vision. 

The word "mystic" derives from the Greek root mu, mean- 
ing silent or mute — muo = "1 shut my mouth" — and by 
derivation unutterable, which is the respect in which the word 
lends itself here. Called satori or kensho in the Ch'an (Zen) 
tradition, the vision broke over Hui-neng while he listened to 
a chanting of the Diamond Sutra, over Te-shan as he watched 
his master blow out a candle flame, over Ling-yun as he saw a 
blossom fall, over Hakuin on hearing a beat of his temple's 
gong, and over Po-chang when his master twisted his nose. 
Obviously the insight is not limited to Asia. The Lord appear- 
ing high and lifted up to Isaiah; the heavens opening to 
Christ at his baptism; the universe turning into a bouquet of 
flowers for Buddha beneath the bo tree; John reporting, "I 
was in the isle that is called Patmos . . . and ... I was in the 
Spirit"; Saul struck blind on the Damascus road. . . . For St. 
Augustine it was the voice of a child saying, "Take, read"; 
for St. Francis a voice that seemed to come from the crucifix. 
It was while St. Ignatius sat by a stream and watched the 
running water, and Jakob Bohme was gazing at a pewter dish, 
that there came to each that news of another world which it 
is always religion's business to convey. 

The message is always the same. Upon analysis we find that 
it consists of four components: 

1. The first we have just been noting: the insight is inef- 
fable. Emphatically it knows, but like higher mathematics, 
what it knows is so little contiguous with ordinary knowing 
that scarcely a hint of it can be conveyed to the uninitiated. 
On balance, therefore, we must say that it is incommunicable. 

20. "Resolution ... of the particle-wave paradox . . . was achieved . . . 
by the adoption of purely mathematical symbols (those of quantum 
mechanics) and, in general, by eschewing pictorially suggestive concepts 
wherever possible." Schilling, The New Consciousness in Science and Re- 
ligion, pp. 78-79. 


There are tribes along the Amazon that have no sugar. When 
anthropologists tried to describe to them the meaning of the 
word "sweet" the natives asked, "Is it like alligator meat?" 
Negotiation finally settled on human milk as the closest equiv- 
alent. We have already watched Dionysius call his quintes- 
sential knowing "Unknowing." Because the "mysteries of 
heavenly Truth lie hidden in the obscurity of the secret 
Silence, outshining all brilliance with the intensity of their 
darkness," he titles the opening chapter of his Mystical The- 
ology, numinously, "The Divine Gloom." 

2. The vision shows existence to be characterized by an 
entirely unexpected unity. Here we come upon another strik- 
ing parallel with science, for its advance scouts too report 
things to be integrated beyond anticipation. Matter and energy 
are one. Time and space are one, time being space's fourth 
dimension. Space and gravity are one: the latter is simply 
space's curvature. And in the end matter and its space-time 
field are one: matter is "a local deformation of the spatio- 
temporal medium. More accurately, what was called a material 
body is nothing but a center of this deformation."^^ On the 
parallel track of the world's worth the mystic keeps step. He 
sees earth joined to heaven and man fused with God. "Hear, 
O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one"; one in a sense 
that is all-embracing and all-reconciling. In the mystic vision 
at-one-ment is not a state to be achieved but a condition to be 
recognized, for God has united his divine essence with- our 
inmost being. Tat tvan asi; That thou art. Atman is Brahman; 
samsara. Nirvana, 

3. The discovery naturally awakens joy. 

4. But it must be immediately added that the joy is not 
fortuitous. It is the logical consequence of the cause that 
preceded it: the discovery of being's unity. The point is crucial, 
for without it the mystic vision is demoted to mystical experi- 
ence. The vision is, of course, an experience in the vacuous 

21. Milii Capek, Philosophical Impact of Contemporary Physics, p. 266. 


sense that everything that comes man's way can be included 
in this loosest of all words. But by the same token, to call it 
an experience is to say nothing unless the point of the word is 
to stress its feeling tone. And this is precisely what must not 
be done on pain of debasing the currency. Feeling is a senti- 
ment. To approach the mystic primarily on his feeling side 
is sentimental in the strict, pejorative sense toward which 
stress on the feeling aspect of things inevitably slopes. The 
mystic vision is not a feeling: it is a seeing, a knowing. We 
could add that it is a knowing that involves being — the man 
of God, says Eckhart, "is never rejoiced; he is joy itself" — 
but it is enough if we stop here with the fact that it is a know- 
ing. It is noetic. In the words of William James, its disclosures 
afford "insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the dis- 
cursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of 
significance and importance." Miss this point and there is no 
explanation for the fact that "they carry with them a curious 
sense of authority for aftertime."22 

5. The Distinctive Ways of Knowing Which the Exceptional 
Regions of Reality Require Must Be Cultivated 

Some regions of nature we experience directly, others we 
do not. But even these hidden regions can get messages to us 
in roundabout ways or we would not know that they exist. 
Had there been no lodestones on our planet we might still 
not know about magnetism, but lodestones do exist, and given 
that fact someone eventually picked up their signal. 

Scanning for such signals and tracking their import is a 
demanding endeavor. It takes time to become a physicist today. 
The facts that relativity accounts for can be memorized in a 
few minutes, but years of study may not suffice to master the 
theory that places these facts in context. The dedication in 
science rivals that of saints and lovers; awakened it makes 
asceticism easy and natural. Was it Rutherford who, asked how 

22. The Varieties ^of Religious Experience (New York: Collier Books, 
1961), p. 300. 


he discovered the composition of the radiation emitted by 
radioactive substances, replied, "I don't think I thought about 
another thing for seven years"? 

At first glance it might seem that mystic knowing does not 
presuppose this kind of discipline and training, for its theoph- 
anies can arrive unsought and unprepared for. A Zen master 
has ventured that almost everyone at some time in his life 
experiences at least a light kensho (illumination), and the 
pages of Alcoholics Anonymous are replete with accounts of 
dissolutes to whom Heaven opened when their hope was 
gone. The difference between science and religion on this 
count is real, but we must distinguish on the religious side 
between individuals who experience flashes of insight and 
others who stabilize these flashes and turn them into abiding 
light. This stabilization need not require that the terrain 
the light discloses remain in direct view; William James lists 
transitoriness as a defining feature of the mystic state.^^ It is 
enough if the terrain is remembered, but the memory must be 
operative rather than idle — between the two lies literally a 
world of difference. Operatively remembered, the mystic's in- 
sight stabilizes to become his defining sense of reality. And 
thereupon it takes command — this is the "curious sense of 
authority for aftertime" that James found mystic insight to 
exercise. But for the mystic's vision to become definitive, things 
must be done — as many as the scientist must do in his arena. 
There is no point in raising here the isSue of works versus 
grace, for though the emphasis can fall on one side or the 
other, there is no quest that does not include them both. Even 
in Zen it is grace that gives the student the determination to 
sit;24 even in Shin the supplicant must himself pronounce the 
nambutsu.^^ Everything is a gift, but nothing is free. "The wind 

23. Ibid., p. 372. "Mystical states cannot be sustained for long. Except 
in rare instances, half an hour, or at most an hour or two, seems to be the 
limit beyond which they fade into the light of common day." 

24. See Marco Pallis, "Is There Room for 'Grace' in Buddhism?" in Jacob 
Needleman, ed.. The Sword of Gnosis (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1974). 

25. See Daisetz Suzuki, Collected Writings on Shin Buddhism (Kyoto: 
Shinshu Otaniha, 1973). 


of God's grace is always blowing," Vivekananda used to say, 
"but you must raise your sail." "The knowledge of God cannot 
be attained by seeking, but only those who seek it find it" 

If the need for vigilance and endeavor (spiritual exercises) 
cuts across the free-will/grace divide, it likewise transcends the 
question of whether the training proceeds within the world 
or apart from it, in monasteries and deserts or through "the 
yoga of everyday life." Asked whether the spiritual quest re- 
quires asceticism, a Buddhist replied, "With the demands the 
world makes on us for patience, who needs contrived askesisi" 

6. Profound Knowing Requires Instruments 

Finally, in both science and religion frontier knowledge is 
disclosed only through the use of instruments. With the un- 
aided eye a small, faint smudge can be detected in the constel- 
lation of Orion, and doubtless an imposing cosmological theory 
could be founded on this smudge. But no amount of theoriz- 
ing, however ingenious, could ever tell us as much about the 
galactic and extragalactic nebulae as can direct acquaintance 
by means of a good telescope, camera, and spectroscope. 

What are the mystic counterparts of such instruments? Basic- 
ally they are two, one of which is corporate, the other private. 
For collectivities — tribes, societies, civilizations, traditions — 
the revealing instruments are the Revealed Texts, or, in non- 
literate societies, the ordering myths that are impounded in 
stories. If one is put off by literalistic depictions of an anthro- 
pomorphic God who dictates these texts, he might provisionally 
think of the truths as welling up from the deepest unconscious 
of spiritual paragons, for, as we have seen, in the last resort 
Spirit (the divine in man) and the Infinite (the divine in its 
transpersonal finality) are identical — man's deepest uncon- 
scious is the mountain at the bottom of the lake. In either case, 
"in the beginning," that illo tempore of man's once-upon-a- 
time, there came to the Moseses and Muhammads of humanity 


the shruti (Truth that is heard) in comparison with which all 
subsequent truth is smriti (truth that is remembered). 

These revealed canons are the "Palomar telescopes" that dis- 
close the heavens that declare God's glory, but in this, religion's 
case, other more individual instruments are required as well. 
There comes a point when the mystic's instrument cannot stop 
with being external and must become — himself. All knowing 
involves an adequation of something in the knower to its 
object, but in the kind of knowing that is at issue here, this 
epistemological something cannot be limited to the knower's 
mind and senses. When Blake tells us that "if the doors of 
perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as 
it is, infinite," the doors in question involve the total self. "It 
is a fact, confirmed and re-confirmed by two or three thousand 
years of religious history," Aldous Huxley wrote, "that Ulti- 
mate Reality is not clearly and immediately apprehended ex- 
cept by those who have made themselves loving, pure in heart, 
and poor in spirit." These are the tools for facilitating the 
mystic's key perceptions that solve all riddles at a stroke and 
define reality from that point on. 

According to the Sufis, the verses of the Koran contain a 
minimum of seven and a maximum of seventy hidden, symbolic 
significances. By this reckoning we are one short, having listed 
only six ways in which science serves as symbol, illuminating 
through parallels man's spiritual thrust. Were we to add a 
seventh, it would be this: Beginning with the corporeal plane 
as its object, science comes at length on strata where the spacio- 
temporal-material matrices of that plane grow at first spongy 
and then fade out entirely. A summary of the position of Paul 
Dirac, the father of antimatter, on this point reads as follows: 

All matter is created out of some imperceptible substratum and . . . 
the creation of matter leaves behind it a "hole" in this substratum 
which appears as antimatter. Now, this substratum itself is not ac- 
curately described as material, since it uniformly fills all space and 
is undetectable by any observation. In a sense, it appears as nothing- 
ness — immaterial, undetectable, and omnipresent. But it is a pe- 


culiarly material form of nothingness, out of which all matter is 

In parallel vein John Wheeler, father of superspace, the quin- 
tessence of relativity, writes: 

A . . . drastic conclusion emerges out of quantum geometro- 
dynamics and displays itself before our eyes in the machinery of 
superspace: there is no such thing as space time in the real world of 
quantum physics. . . . 

On this picture physics is a staircase. Each tread registers a law. 
. . . Each riser marks the transcendence of that law. . . . The stair- 
case climbs from step to step: density, and density found alterable; 
valence law, and valence law melted away: conservation of net 
baryon and net lepton number, and these conservation laws tran- 
scended; conservation of energy and angular momentum, and these 
laws likewise overstepped; and then the top thread displaying all 
the key constants and basic dynamic laws — but above a final riser 
leading upward into nothingness. It bears a message: With the 
collapse of the universe, the framework falls down for every law 
of physics. There is no dynamic principle that does not require 
space and time for its formulation; but space and time collapse; 
and with their collapse every known dynamic principle collapses.27 

Invoking the levels of reality that were outlined in Chapter 
3, we say that science here bumps the ceiling of the corporeal 
plane. It can glimpse a land across the river, but its methods do 
not enable it to enter that land. From the metaphysical point 
of view its arms, lifted toward a zone of freedom that trans- 
cends coagulation, form the homing arc of the "love loop" 
noted on page 84. They are science responding to Eternity's 
love for the productions of time. 

It is a far cry from antimatter and superspace to the mind of 
an aborigine, yet it is conceivable that if the whole sweep of 
science were to be spread before the latter he might see it in 

26. Richard F. Plzak, Jr., "Paradox East and West," unpublished senior 
dissertation, M.I.T., 1973, p. 54. 

27. "From Relativity to Mutability," in Jagdish Mehra (ed.), The Physi- 
cist's Conception of Nature (Dordrecht-Holland/Boston-U.S.A.: D. Reidel 
Publishing Company, 1973). pp. 227, 241. 


better perspective than we do. In the opening pages of The 
Savage Mind, Levi-Strauss quotes a native thinker as making 
a penetrating comment, the one we used as epigraph for this 
chapter: " 'All sacred things must have their place,' It could 
even be said," L6vi-Strauss continues, 

that being in their place is what makes them sacred for if they 
were taken out of their place, even in thought, the entire order 
of the universe would be destroyed. Sacred objects therefore con- 
tribute to the maintenance of the order of the universe by occupy- 
ing the places allocated to them.28 

So it is with science. In place it is a grace. Cyril Smith reminds 
us that metals and glass were invented for art and religion 
rather than utility, but technology bestows utilitarian favors 
as well, and science in addition to its intrinsic disclosures of 
truth can inspire awe and serve as a symbol to confirm the 
spirit's quest.28 This last is the way we have tried to put it to 
work in this chapter: if there are sermons in stones it is in- 
conceivable that none exist in science; in Latin "laboratory" 
(labor-oratory) means a place to work and pray. The converse 
of the foregoing is that out of place, as angel that has fallen, 
science turns demonic. It presumes to control too much and to 
disclose more of reality than in fact it does. To approach exist- 
ence as if it were purely or even primarily physical and mathe- 
matical is to falsify it. The approach could end in smashing 
our planet, for if a hammer is the only tool one learns to use, 
it is tempting to regard everything as if it were a nail. 
But we were not going to get involved in consequences. 

28. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1966, p. 10. Our language 
retains the memory of this early insight. The sublime is what remains 
within its limit — sub-limen. 

29. Approaching physics from this angle, Fritjof Capra calls it "a path 
with a heart." The Too of Physics (Berkeley: Shambala, 1975), p. 25. 

I no longer desired a better world, because I 
was thinking of creation as a whole: and in the 
light of this more balanced discernment, I had 
come to see that higher things are better than 
the lower, but that the sum of all creation is 
better than the higher things alone. 

ST. AUGUSTINE, ConfesstOTis, VII, xiii, 19 

I only pass on to others what [has been] passed 
on to me. If there is any lack of learning in my 
writing, any obscurity of expression or superficial 
treatment, you may feel sure that it is in such 
places that I am most original. 


6. HopE, Yes; Proqress, No 

Hope is indispensable to human health — to psychological 
health most immediately, but because man is a psychosomatic 
whole, to physical health as well. Situated as we are in the 
Middle (hence middling) World, vicissitudes are a part of the 
human lot: external vicissitudes (hard times), and internal vi- 
cissitudes — the "gravitational collapse" of the psyche that sucks 
us into depression as if it were a black hole. Against such vicis- 
situdes hope is our prime recourse. Ascending a sheer-faced 
cliff, a mountaineer can lodge his pick in an overhead crevice 
and, chinning himself on it, advance. Hope is the psyche's 

In the primordial outlook hope is vertical, or at least trans- 
historical. "Vertical" here means that the fundamental change 
that is hoped for is an ascent of the individual soul through a 
medium — the world — which does not itself change substantially 
but provides stable rungs on which the soul can climb. Or in 
cases where the prospect is viewed collectively and in worldly 
terms — as in the Kingdom of God that is to come "on earth," 
the coming age of the Maitreya Buddha, or Islam's Day of Res- 


HOPE, yes; progress, no / 119 

urrection — it is assumed that this Kingdom will differ in kind 
from the history that preceded it and will be inaugurated by 
God's direct if not apocalyptic intervention. In neither its in- 
dividual nor its collective version is progress in the traditional 
sense envisioned as sociopolitical, the gradual amelioration 
of man's corporate lot through his collective efforts and in- 

By contrast, the modern version of hope is emphatically his- 
torical. And its imagery is horizontal, for its eye is on an earthly 
future instead of the heavens. In one sense all hope is future- 
oriented, but that of modernity is doubly so — for mankind as 
a whole as well as for the individual. In fact, hope for individ- 
uals is for the most part tied to hope for history; it is on the 
hope that human life as a whole can be improved that hope for 
the individual primarily relies. If the traditional view rested 
its case on the fact that in boiling water bubbles rise, the 
modern view hopes to escalate the water itself. 

What effected this Copernican revolution in the way hope 
— or progress; the same thing— is conceived? Three agents. 

The first was science. Around the seventeenth century the 
scientific method began garnering information at an exponen- 
tial rate. True, its findings pertained to physical nature only, 
but even so, the vista was breath-taking. Moreover, by virtue 
of improvements that occurred in methods of experimentation, 
the new understanding of nature could be proved to be true. 
It seemed evident, therefore, that in this one respect at least, 
corporate progress was being effected. Never again would man- 
kind be as naive as it has been regarding its habitat. 

On the heels of this progress in pure understanding came 
science's utilitarian spin-off, technology. It multiplied goods, 
relieved drudgery, and counteracted disease. Since these are 
not inconsiderable benefactions and, like the findings of pure 
science, can be dispensed — bestowed on people, unlike char- 
acter, say, which each individual must acquire for himself — it 
again looked as if mankind as a whole was advancing. History 
was getting somewhere. 


These two causes for the rise of the vision of historical prog- 
ress are well known. The third reason has been less noticed 
because it is privative; it involved not the appearing but the 
vanishing of something. Science and technology would not 
have changed man's outlook a fraction as much as they did 
had they not been reinforced by scientism. Its epistemological 
assumption that only the scientific method gives "news about 
the universe" produced the ontological conclusion that cor- 
poreal reality is the only concrete and self-sufficient reality 
there is; see Chapter 1. In a single stroke the mansion of being 
was reduced to its ground floor. The consequence for hope was 
obvious: if being has no upper stories, hope has no vertical 
prospect. If it is to go anywhere — and hope by definition im- 
plies a going of some sort — henceforth that "where" could only 
be forward or horizontal. The extent to which the modern 
doctrine of progress is the child, not of evidence as it would 
like to believe, but of hope's ^lan — the fact that being indis- 
pensable it does spring eternal in the human breast and, in 
the modern world view, has no direction to flow save forward 
— is among the undernoted facts of intellectual history. If the 
ratio between evidence and hope in the idea of historical prog- 
ress were to be laid squarely before us, we would be humbled 
in our estimate of ourselves as rational creatures. 

As things stand, we do not see that picture clearly and histor- 
ical progress remains the kingpin of the modern outlook. Seep- 
ing and soaking, permeating, probing, it diffuses like mist, 
discovering every corner, saturating every cell. In biology we 
have Darwinism and evolution, in cosmology an evolving uni- 
verse. In history we have The Idea of Progress (J. B. Bury) and 
Marx's escalator that rises from slavery and serfdom through 
capitalism to the coming classless society. In philosophy we 
have Henri Bergson's early-century Creative Evolution and 
Ernst Bloch's midcentury Das Prinzip Hoffnung, and in the- 
ologfy Jiirgen Moltmann's Protestant Theology of Hope and 
the Catholic writings of Johannes Metz. Cutting across the lot, 
as if to pull the vision together, is the work of the scientist. 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 121 

poet, and mystic Teilhard de Chardin, as focused in The Phe- 
nomenon of Man. 

Somewhere in his ponderous All and Everything Gurdjieff 
says in effect, "Now I am going to tell you something people 
are not going to believe." The statement galvanized our atten- 
tion, for it seemed to us that the author had been trafficking in 
notions of this genre for some pages. With an interest the book 
had not up to then aroused, we raced to discover what this 
truly incredible truth was to be. It appeared that it would have 
to do with the reason for wars, and this looked promising; it 
would be very good, we thought, to know why human beings 
decimate their kind. We were not prepared for the answer. The 
reason for wars, it turns out, is that the moon feeds on human 
beings. Periodically its fare grows slim and a war is needed to 
beef it up. We thought: the man is right — absolutely, com- 
pletely, unequivocally right. This people won't believe. 

We relate this incident because we sense that it may be about 
to be reenacted with its roles reversed. Readers who feel that 
the notions of the last several chapters have already pressed 
credulity to the limit — notions like the survival of bodily death, 
incorporeal realms that are more real than physical ones, or 
infinite beatitude as the human possibility — may find the point 
we are about to make, the last major one of this work, exces- 
sive; de trop, as the French would say: too much. In traditional 
China a gentleman might be found protesting that a friend's 
modesty "exceeds the permitted limits." Readers may feel that 
what we are about to say likewise exceeds limits; the limits of 
credulity most obviously, but possibly of propriety as well. 
For we are going to say that progress is an illusion; not only 
future progress but past progress as well. The last part of that 
statement will have to be qualified, but in essence it will stand. 
Utopia is a dream, evolution a myth. 

To refer to the illusion in its total sweep, we coin the word 
"prevolution." Phonetically the word joins progress to evolu- 
tion, showing the two to be faces, prospective and retrospective, 
of a single, Janus-like deity. In addition the word suggests the 


current prevzlence of the cult of this god. The impounding of 
these ideas in a single word gives us a running start into our 

If Western man were to see that this god is a false one — or 
to put it the other way, that prevolution is a fiction; it has not 
happened and will not happen — the modern age would be 
over, for the notion is so much its cornerstone that were it to 
crumble, a new edifice would have to be built. By the same 
token, the case against the notion is going to be difficult to 
make, for it is not easy to dislodge a notion that undergirds 
an entire epoch. We shall take it in segments. Working our way 
backward, we shall look successively at the long-range future, 
the short-range future, the short-range past, and the long-range 

The long-range prospects for our universe are not encourag- 
ing. Whether it ends by collapsing into a widening black hole^ 
or winds down to an entropic deep freeze four degrees above 
absolute zero does not much matter; be the finale a bang or a 
whimper, its human import is the same: our universe will not 
support life indefinitely.^ Given the rate at which the sun is 

1. "The black hole of today is more than a black hole. It is a symbol, 
'experimental model,' and provider of lessons for the collapse Einstein 
predicted in far later days for the universe itself." John Wheeler, in Jagdish 
Mehra (ed.). The Physicist's Conception of Nature (Dordrecht-Holland/ 
Boston-U.S.A.: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1973), p. 215. 

2. I insert a footnote which is at least interesting; whether it is more 
than that the reader may decide for himself. When in 1964 I had my first 
audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I resolved in advance not to 
take much of his valuable time and after about ten minutes arose to take 
my leave. He stood up with me, and though we had been conversing 
through an interpreter I heard him say to himself in English, "I must 
decide what is important." There was a moment's pause, then a smile broke 
over his face and with the words "Please be seated," he gestured to the 
divan. When I next arose an hour and three-quarters liad elapsed for the 
most remarkable morning of my life. 

What secured for me this gift was not, it turned out, good karma but 
rather a ruse. In Asia calling cards are useful, and the one I had sent 
ahead in requesting the audience carried in its lower left-hand corner the 
words "Massachusetts Institute of Technology." It proved to be a magic 
name, for along with his sanctity and erudition. His Holiness has a lively 
scientific interest and a mechanical bent: he strips down Austin Healeys 
and dismantles watches to reassemble them. My card had misled him into 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 123 

spending its energy, our particular solar system will die long 
before our universe does, of course. In 5 billion years it will 
have thinned out to 250 times its present diameter and swal- 
lowed our planet. 

Such prospects caused a former dean of Canterbury Cathedral 
to cry, "Short views, for God's sake, short views." But with the 

thinking that he had a flesh -and-blood scientist in his living room, and he 
had decided not to pass up the opportunity this afforded. 

Specifically, he wanted to check two scientific reports that had recently 
come his way. One of these concerned DNA; he wanted to know if it bore 
at all on the doctrine of reincarnation. The other concerned cosmogonies. 
He had heard of Hoyle's steady-state theory in which a continuing influx 
of hydrogen (from who knows where) compensates for the thinning out 
of matter through the world's expansion, and also of the so-called big-bang 
theory which posits that at its start our universe consisted of a superdense 
kernel that exploded and has been expanding ever since. To these I was 
able to add a third, which Harlow Shapley called the bang-bang-bang 
theory: the theory that the present expanding phase of our universe will 
be followed by one of collapse, with no reason why the cycle should not 
repeat itself, accordion fashion, indefinitely. His Holiness nodded, saying 
that of the three this last was the most nearly right. It has been interesting 
to note that in the decade since he registered that opinion the steady-state 
theory has been retired from the running. One waits with interest to see 
which of the other two receives the astronomers' imprimatur. 

To insert brackets within parentheses, I cannot refrain from adding 
another point which strictly speaking has nothing to do with the topic 
under discussion but which mention of the Dalai Lama invariably brings 
to mind. No one I know who has been in his presence has failed to be 
impressed, least of all myself. But the way he impressed me was almost the 
reverse of my expectations, insofar as I recall having had any. For it was 
not as if he wore a halo or exuded some sort of numinous glow. Almost the 
opposite: from the moment he clasped my hand with a firmness that made 
it feel in comparison to his like a flabby fish, it was his directness, his utter 
unpretentiousness, his total objectivity, that astonished. I do not believe 
that before or since I have been in the presence of someone who was as 
completely himself. Because I have traveled considerably in "the mystical 
East" I am frequently asked if I have ever encountered the siddhis, the 
supernatural powers that are believed to accrue in the course of yogic 
training and advance. My answer is no, not directly. I have heard innumer- 
able accounts from persons who claimed to have been firsthand witnesses, 
but always the displays have stopped one step short of my door. Since 
meeting the Dalai Lama, however, I sometimes add an appendage to that 
answer. How anyone could have been raised as that man was, like a queen 
bee, really, surrounded from the age of four by no one save persons who 
assumed as a matter of course that he was God-incarnate for Tibet — how, 
to repeat, a mortal could have survived this kind of upbringing and 
escaped the slightest trace of a big head is, I am inclined to think, as close 
to a miracle as I need come. 


ecological crisis, energy depletion, the population explosion, 
and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, to say nothing of the 
interlocking, depersonalized bureaucratization of life,^ the 
short-range future, too, looks bleak. Systems analysts, synthe- 
sizing their computer data, tell us we are on a collision course 
with disaster; Robert Heilbroner's The Human Prospect is 
not pleasant reading. Poets and philosophers had anticipated 
their warning. The century in which politicians have preyed 
on hope unprecedentedly, promising "The Century of the 
Common Man," "The War to End All Wars," "The War to 
Make the World Safe for Democracy," "The Four Freedoms," 
"The Great Society" — this century of maniacally inflated expec- 
tations has seen Utopian writing come to a dead stop.^ "Hope," 
Kazantzakis concluded, "is a rotten-thighed whore." Even Berg- 
son, who moved Darwin into philosophy, came at the end to 
the view that man was "being crushed by the immense progress" 
he has made. Sartre is not profound, but he is a shrewd phe- 
nomenologist, and on the existential level where he works he 
advises that "we must learn to live without hope." The morn- 
ing newspaper lists a film that is showing at a local cinema. 
Titled / Have Seen the Future and It Doesn't Work, it is billed 
for "mature" audiences. 

But if the future will not work, surely the past has. Is not 
progress up to the present — life beginning in slime and ending 
in intelligence — a matter of record? 

Let us see. 

We begin with the short-range past, the career of Homo 
sapiens himself. To the prevolutionist, its career replicates the 
incline plane of the grand design: the species begins with ape 
men and moves through primitive savages to culminate in the 
intelligent creatures we have now become. The view is so 
taken for granted that when we hear the director of a leading 

3. Ninety percent of the gainfully employed in the United States now 
work in organizations. Seventy years ago 90 percent were self-employed. 

4. Walden Two is no exception to this statement. Its unconvincingness, 
stemming from its lack of insight more than its lack of artistry, debars it 
from serious consideration. 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 125 

museum observe, "From Stone Age to the present — what a de- 
cline," we suspect him either of quipping or of fronting for a 
museum's vested interest in the past. Perhaps the discovery 
that the Neanderthal's brain was larger than ours will help 
us to take the judgment more seriously.^ Or the assessment of 
L^vi-Strauss; in terms of man-nature equilibrium, which in the 
long run must be the ruling consideration, he places the Golden 
Age of humanity somewhere around the Neolithic « If we shift 
from ecological to intellectual criteria, he again sees no clear 
advance; in a way the burden of his entire work has been to 
make clear that "the savage mind" is fully as complex and 
rational as our own. And if we go with him a final step, looking 
beyond rationality to the motives that determine its use, L^vi- 
Strauss sees decline. Is it that analytic thought (the kind man 
has fallen into) has unseen violence built into it? he asks; or 
that man is possessed by an obscure fury against the Eden he 
dimly remembers and unconsciously realizes that he has lost? 

5. See Phillip V. Tobias, The Brain in Hominid Evolution (New York: 
Columbia University Press, 1971), pp. 96, 100-103. I am indebted to Gary 
Snyder, who ia an anthropologist as well as a poet, for this point as well 
as the one in the next footnote. 

6. Marshall Sahlins places it even earlier, in the Paleolithic; the view 
that the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture constitutes 
a Great Leap Forward, he discounts as nothing but a "neolithic prejudice." 
Countering the entrenched theoretical position today, wherein the question 
"How did the primitives manage to live?" is topped only by the question of 
whether their existence deserves to be called living at all, he argpjes in his 
Stone Age Economics (Chicago and New York: Aldine-Atherton, Inc., 1972) 
that theirs was, as the title of his opening chapter puts it, "The Original 
Affluent Society." Affluence being a ratio between means and ends, by keep- 
ing their ends modest — want not, lack not — their means were more adequate 
to them than is the case with us. It is we who sentence ourselves to life at 
hard labor; the primitive is in business for his health. Hunters keep bank- 
ing hours: "reports on hunters and gatherers . . . suggest a mean of three 
to five hours per adult worker per day in food production" (p. 34). The 
rest of their time is reserved for gossiping, entertaining, dancing and other 
arts, and daytime sleep. "Savage . . . days are nothing but a pastime," a 
seventeenth-century explorer reported (p. 29). Passing to the question of 
what our industry has got us, Sahlins answers: "This is the era of hunger 
unprecedented. Now, in the time of the greatest technical power, is starva- 
tion an institution. Reverse another venerable formula: the amount of 
hunger increases relatively and absolutely with the evolution of culture" 
(p. 26). 


Whatever the reason, whenever man now comes on landscapes 
or communities that resemble his image of a lost innocence, he 
lashes out and lays waste. Colonizers, rapacious white men and 
their technology, are the conspicuous culprits, but Levi-Strauss 
does not exempt himself and his own discipline. The Western 
hunt for knowledge, analytic and objective to its core, has 
violence built into it. For to know analytically is to reduce the 
object of knowledge, however vital, however complex, to pre- 
cisely this: an object. This being so, the Western hunt for 
knowledge, anthropology not excepted, is in a tragic sense the 
final exploitation and, as George Steiner has observed, Tristes 
Tropiques the first classic of our current ecological anguish. 

It looks forward with haughty melancholy to the image of the 
globe — cooling, emptied of man, cleansed of his garbage — that ap- 
pears in the coda of Mythologiques. "Anthropology," says L^vi- 
Strauss in concluding Tristes Tropiques, can now be seen as 
"en tropology": the study of man has become the study of disinte- 
gration and certain extinction. There is no darker pun in modern 

Extending our retrospective look past man to the story of 
life as a whole, we come to evolution in its classic. Darwinian 
sense. This is the key domain, for it is on biological evolution 
that prevolution finally builds; this is its bedrock and prime 
foundation. As biologist Lewis Thomas puts it, "Evolution is 
our most powerful story, equivalent in its way to a universal 

In his Personal Knowledge — a book once commended to us 
by Noam Chomsky as the best on the philosophy of science that 
has been written — Michael Polanyi opens his critique of Neo- 
Darwinism with this arresting remark: "Only a prejudice 
backed by genius can have obscured such elementary facts 
[contradicting this school] as I propose to state."^ There is not 
space here to reproduce the details of his argument; we must 

7. The New Yorker, June 4, 1974, pp. 107-108. 

8. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958, p. 382. Page references in 
the following paragraphs are to this work. 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 127 

be content to summarize it. The history of nature shows "a 
cumulative trend of changes tending towards higher levels of 
organization, among which the deepening of sentience and the 
rise of thought are the most conspicuous" (p. 384). "At each 
successive stage of this epic process we see arising some novel 
operations not specifiable in terms of the preceding level" (p. 
389); for example, "while quantum mechanics can explain in 
principle all chemical reactions, it cannot replace, even in 
principle, our knowledge of chemistry" (p. 384). The same 
holds, of course, for the relation of biology to chemistry, psy- 
chology to biology, and so on. Moreover, 

the consecutive steps of a long-range evolutionary progress — like 
the rise of consciousness — cannot be determined merely by their 
adaptive advantage, since these advantages can form part of such 
progress only in so far as they prove adaptive in a peculiar way, 
namely on the tines of continuous ascending evolutionary achieve- 
ment. The action of the ordering principle underlying such a per- 
sistent creative trend is necessarily overlooked or denied by the 
theory of natural selection. . . . Recognition [of this ordering 
principle] would. . . . reduce mutation and selection to their proper 
status of merely releasing and sustaining the action of evolutionary 
principles by which all major evolutionary achievements are de- 
fined, [p. 385] 

The rise of man can be accounted for only by other principles 
than those known today to physics and chemistry. If this be 
vitalism, then vitalism is mere common sense, which can be ignored 
only by a truculently bigotted mechanistic outlook. And so long as 
we can form no idea of the way a material system may become a 
conscious, responsible person, it is an empty pretense to suggest 
that we have an explanation for the descent of man. Darwinism 
has diverted attention for a century from the descent of man by 
investigating the conditions of evolution and overlooking its ac- 
tion. Evolution can be understood only as a feat of emergence, 
[p. 390] 

This last word, "emergence," epitomizes Polanyi's alterna- 
tive to Darwinism and links him to the precursors he acknowl- 


edges, Lloyd Morgan and Samuel Alexander. The entire thrust 
of Polanyi's philosophical work is against reductionism, the at- 
tempt to explain the higher in terms of the lower, the whole 
in terms of its parts. In this, its negative polemic, it is on sure 
ground; the question concerns his alternative. Emergence is 
well and good, but where from? From whence do the "ordering 
innovative principles" he insists on (p. 387, passim) derive? If 
simpler, antecedent principles cannot account for them, is 
"nothing" — thin air — a more plausible source? For respecting 
sources, "nothing" and "thin air" are what emergence comes 
to. "All we can say is that at one moment there is nothing and 
at the next something," said Hoyle in answer to the question 
of where the hydrogen in his steady-state theory derived from. 
As etiology, emergence says no more than this. 

Can anything come from nothing? Can a stream rise higher 
than its source? We are back to the enduring imponderables. 
On issues this fundamental, this close to ontological sensibility 
at its root and essence, no argument can deliver verdicts, so we 
shall enter none. Instead, we shall describe; we shall state. If 
emergence denies that a stream can rise higher than its source 
in the sense of simpler ordering principles accounting for ones 
that are more complex, the primordial outlook agrees with this 
denial and adds that something cannot come from nothing. Ex 
nihilo nihil fit. 

What does this portend for evolution? It does not counter the 
fact that in the temporal order simple precedes complex. First 
viruslike specks of living matter; then bacilli with physiological 
functions that serve survival; then protozoa that can move 
about of their own accord and effect purposive activities; then 
multicellular organisms with sexual reproduction, nervous sys- 
tems of increasing complexity, and sense organs that extend 
contact deeper into the surrounding space. We do not know 
when consciousness entered the sequence, but thought proper 
seems to come with the language that is confined to man. 
There is no need to deny anything in the sequence that carbon 
dating tells us transpired. Genesis had already announced the 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 129 

principle, as had other sacred texts and commentaries on them. 
"Man," said Gregory Palamas, 

this greater world contained in a lesser, [is] the concentration into 
one whole of all that is, the recapitulation of all things created by 
God. Therefore he was produced last of all, just as we also (in our 
turn) round off what we have to say with a conclusion.* 

Far from denying life's progression, tradition provides a reason 
for it (in its own order of explanation, of course). Microcosm 
mirrors macrocosm, earth mirrors heaven. But mirrors, as we 
have noted, invert. The consequence here is that that which 
is first in the ontological order appears last in the temporal 

Not that the higher appears after the lower but that it is 
produced by the lower — this is what tradition denies. In doing 
so it counters the dominant mood of our time. Order from 
revolution (Marx), ego from id (Freud), life from the primal 
ooze (Darwin); everywhere the reflexive impulse is to derive 
the more from the less. Tradition proceeds otherwise. 

What difference does it make which way we proceed — 
whether we look up or down for our explanations? We feel en- 
joined to raise this question explicitly, for we fear the reader 
may at this point be experiencing a letdown. Taking off from 
Gurdjieff's "this they won't believe," we had more than inti- 
mated that on the question of life's origin we proposed to say 
something startling. The exotic expectations this introit may 
have conjured in the reader's mind can only be surnTised. 
That man arrived from another planet? That he was molded 
directly from dust? And after this buildup the promised sur- 
prise turns out to be scarcely one at all. The evolutionary se- 
quence is not denied: amoebas did come first; life does advance. 
The only difference attaches to what would seem to be a 
secondary issue: the means by which the advance is effected. In 

9. The Ascetic and Theological Teaching o/ Gregory Palamas, trans, by 
Father Basil Krivosheine; reprint from The Eastern Churches Quarterly, 
No. 4, 1938, p. 3. 


all Other respects the prevailing view is ratified and what was 
billed as a shock wave turns out to be a ripple. Life does 

No, it does not. The point at stake is not a detail or in any 
way secondary. For evolution does not present itself as mere 
chronicle, a timetable, so to speak, with curators lining up fos- 
sil remains in the sequences in which they appeared. Evolu- 
tion proposes to be an explanatory theory. It is the claim that 
everything about man, his complete complement of faculties 
and potentials, can be accounted for by a process, natural selec- 
tion, that works mechanically on chance variations. Let its 
most distinguished recent spokesman phrase the wording. "Evo- 
lution . . . the product of an enormous lottery presided over 
by natural selection, blindly picking the rare winners from 
among numbers drawn at utter random. . . . This conception 
alone is compatible with the facts. The miracle stands 'ex- 
plained.' "^^ 

The quotation marks around that last word are interesting, 
standing as they do as an acknowledgment that Monod him- 
self recognizes that he is using the word "explained" atypically. 
He does not tell us the deviant sense he has in mind, but by 
our lights his departure from normal usage is major. For to 
someone not already predisposed in evolution's favor, Monod's 
"explanation" is not such at all.^^ One reads his book, takes a 
sounding of the evolutionary corpus, and the miracle remains. 

Let us take our bearings. Why in a chapter on hope are we 
devoting so much space to evolution? 

Because it bears decisively on the chapter's theme. We have 
saved hope for this last substantive chapter of the book, not 
only because of its importance to human well-being but be- 
cause we see it as the topic on which current thought is most 
confused and mistaken. The mistake lies in founding hope on 

10. Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity (New York: Vintage Books, 
1972), p. 138. 

11. See William Pollard's telling critique of it in Soundings, LVI, 4 
(Winter 1973). Also John Lewis (ed.). Beyond Chance and Necessity 
(Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1974). 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 131 

a collective future, a future that will upgrade the quality of 
life by the mere fact that lives are born into it. Of the two 
factors that gave rise to this error, the first — a blend of science 
and technology — we are on our way to seeing through. There 
remains its other prop: evolution. We have called it the king- 
pin of the modern mind because from the standpoint of that 
mind so much has come to rest on it — nothing less than hope 
itself — that modernity is more invested in this doctrine than 
in any other. This in itself should put us on alert respecting 
it, given what we know about the way desire vectors evidence 
in favor of its wishes. 

To speak plainly, as long as we can believe that there is a 
principle operative in nature — natural selection — that works 
to produce the higher from the lower, we can take courage. 
God is reinstated; a different god to be sure, but akin to the 
earlier one in that "he" too will see to it that things turn 
out all right. He does not preclude false starts any more than 
his predecessor did, but in the long run the victory is assured. 
We are in good hands. 

As a matter of fact that last sentence happens to be true — 
the title of this chapter implies as much. But the hands in 
question are not those of natural selection. Fortunately, con- 
sidering the latter's brittleness. 

This is not the place to enter into a full-scale critique of the 
theory of evolution. Those who wish to pursue the subject will 
find the main points summarized in Section IV of Titus 
Burckhardt's remarkable essay "Cosmology and Modern 
Science"^2 spelled out in considerable detail in Douglas 
Dewar's The Transformist Illusion^^ and Evan Shute's Flaws 

12. In Jacob Needleman, ed., The Sword of Gnosis (Baltimore: Penguin 
Books. 1974). 

13. Murfreesboro, Tenn.: De Hoff Publications, 1957. It shows, among 
other things, that the so-called missing links are still missing. The most 
commonly cited example in favor of the evolutionary hypothesis is the 
supposed genealogy of the equine animals, which Charles Deperet criticizes 
as follows: "Geological observation establishes in a formal manner that 
no gradual passage existed between these genera; the last Palaeotherium 
was extinct long since, without transforming itself, when the first Archi- 


in the Theory of Evolution.^* Regarding the empirical evi- 
dence we shall content ourselves with three things: our own 
summary assessment, the assessment of a biologist, and a pre- 

Our personal assessment is that on no other scientific theory 
does the modern mind rest so much confidence on so little 
proportional evidence; on evidence, that is to say, which, in 
ratio to the amount that would be needed to establish the 
theory in the absence of the will to believe, is so meager. In its 
standard form the evolutionary hypothesis lies too close to 
accepted belief for today's Westerner to see how much it rides 
the will to believe, but when the hypothesis is enlarged — 
blown up, as it were, like a photographic print — the "will" 
shows up in clear outline. Teilhard de Chardin provides the 

therium appeared, and the latter had disappeared in its turn, without 
modification, before being suddenly replaced by the invasion of Hipparion. 
. . . The supposed pedigree of the Equidae is a deceitful delusion, which 
simply gives us the general process by which the tridactyl hoof of an 
Ungulate can transform itself, in various groups, into a monodactyl hoof, 
in view of an adaptation for speed; but in no way enlightens us on the 
palaeontological origin of the horse." Le Transformations du Monde 
Animal, pp. 107, 105; cited by Burckhardt on p. 144 and Dewar on p. 92. 

Because the names of these authors are not household words, we add a 
summary statement by Loren Eiseley, whose name will be recognized: "How 
the primeval human creature evolved into Homo sapiens, what forces pre- 
cipitated the enormous expansion of the human brain — these problems 
ironically still baffle the creature who has learned to weigh stars and to 
tamper with the very fabric of the universe." "Fossil Man," in Scientific 
American, CLXXXIX (Dec. 1953), 65. A final verdict in this list that 
could go on for pages comes from a former colleague at the Massachusetts 
Institute of Technology, Murray Eden: "Neo-Darwinian evolutionary 
theory . . . has been modified to the point that virtually every formulation 
of the principles of evolution is a tautology." "Inadequacies of Neo-Darwin- 
ian Evolution as a Scientific Theory," in Paul Moorhead and Martin 
Kaplan, eds.. Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation 
of Evolution (Philadelphia: The Wistar Institute Press, 1967), p. 109. 
"Natural selection" has proved to be a key that can be twisted to fit almost 
any lock. 

i4. Nutley, N.J.: Craig Press, 1961. The contribution of this book lies in 
the clear distinction it draws between "micro-evolution" (evolution on a 
small scale and within narrow limits), which no one contests, and "mega- 
evolution" (the theory that the class of birds, for example, evolved from 
the class of reptiles), which is "really a philosophy dating from the days 
of biological ignorance; it was a philosophical synthesis built up in a 
biological kindergarten." 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 133 

obvious instance. To him. The Phenomenon of Man was 
science, a clean print-out — "pure and simple" are his words — 
of the conclusions the facts of nature point to. P. B. Medawar 
is as schooled in those facts as Teilhard was, but since he does 
not approach them by way of Teilhard's pseudo-Christian as- 
sumptions« he does not find them pointing to the Omega Point 
at all. The greater part of Teilhard's argument, Medawar 

is nonsense, tricked out by a variety of tedious metaphysical con- 
ceits, and its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the 
grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to 
deceive himself. The Phenomenon of Man cannot be read without 
a feeling of suffocation, a gasping and flailing around for sense. 
There is an argument in it, to be sure — a feeble argument, abomin- 
ably expressed — but ... it is the style that creates the illusion of 
content, and which is in some part the cause as well as merely 
the symptom of Teilhard's alarming apocalyptic seizures.^^ 

TouchS! And pari passu! Our point is that if biologists were 
to approach the paleontological record as innocent of evolu- 
tionary biases as Medawar is unencumbered by Teilhardian 
ones, their frustration in the face of the claimed scientific status 
of the evolutionary theory would rival Medawar's frustration 
on reading the assertion with which The Phenomenon of Man 
opens and on which the book turns; the assertion that "this 
book . . . must be read not as a work on metaphysics, still less 
as a sort of theological essay, but purely and simply as a scien- 
tific treatise." 

As our judgment here is open to the double charge that not 
only is it that of a layman but of one who obviously has his 
own will to believe, we follow it with the judgment of a biolo- 
gist whose heart is in the opposite, evolutionary camp. "I firmly 
believe," writes Jean Rostand, 

that mammals have come from lizards, and lizards from fish, but 
... when I think such a thing, I try not to avoid seeing its in- 
digestible enormity and I prefer to leave vague the origin of these 

15. Mind, LXX, 277 G*"- 1961), 99. 


scandalous metamorphoses rather than add to their improbability 
that of a ludicrous interpretation.** 

Though this judgment has the merit of being that of a profes- 
sional, it too is vulnerable, Rostand is but one biologist among 
many; for what proportion of his guild does he speak? So we 
round off the matter with a prediction: In the next hundred 
years, possibly less,^^ the fate of the evolutionary hypothesis will 
constitute the most interesting exemplification of the thesis 
Thomas Kuhn sets forth in The Structure of Scientific Revolu- 
tions; the thesis that scientists' need to make sense of their data 
causes them to continue to pour it into the prevailing mold (ex- 
planatory paradigm) until an alternative mold is fashioned that 
can accommodate the data more comfortably. When the change 
does occur, it does so quite suddenly. The picture "does a flip," 
as when one visual gestalt replaces another. 

With this prediction we leave the empirical side of the evolu- 
tionary question; the data that would have to be sifted is, as 
we say, too vast to go into here. On the formal side, however, 
another point can be registered. If it is not entirely (or even 
primarily) evidence that gives the evolutionary hypothesis its 
seeming strength, from whence does that semblance derive? We 
have already mentioned man's need for hope as one explana- 
tion. To this we must now add a second that relates to the 
scientific enterprise itself. 

A Cambridge University professor points to it. In reviewing a 
book on natural selection around midcentury. Sir James Gray 
wrote: "No amount of argument or clever epigram can disguise 

16. Le Figaro Litteraire, April 20, 1957. Quoted in Burckhardt, "Cos- 
mology and Modern Science," p. 143. 

17. In the several weeks that have elapsed since those words were written, 
there have been signs that the time span in question may be closer to a 
decade than a century. Most interesting has been the appearance of Tom 
Bethell's "Darwin's Mistake" in the February 1976 issue of Harper's 
Magazine (pp. 72, 75). His conclusion is as follows: "Darwin's theory, I 
believe, is on the verge of collapse. . . . He is in the process of being dis- 
carded, but perhaps in deference to the venerable old gentleman, resting 
comfortably in Westminster Abbey next to Sir Isaac Newton, it is being 
done as discreetly and gently as possible, with a minimum of publicity." 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 135 

the inherent improbability of [the orthodox evolutionary 
theory], but most biologists think that it is better to think in 
terms of improbable events than not to think at all."^^ It being 
axiomatic in science that one of the best ways "not to think" 
is by begging the question — that is, by assuming within an ex- 
planation that which it purports to explain — the first test a 
scientific explanation of the origin of life forms must pass is that 
the operative forces it invokes must not themselves possess life 
properties. This initial test Darwinism passes brilliantly; 
neither "chance" nor "the survival of those best suited to 
survive" presuppose the slightest intentionality or tropism. 
And because natural selection is the only hypothesis about 
life's origin that does pass this qualifying examination, it can 
fail right and left on subsequent tests (How much positive 
evidence supports it? Can it account for countervailing in- 
stances?) without losing its place as king of the mountain. For 
biologists are not different from other people; as Sir James says, 
they would rather shoulder improbabilities than not think (in 
their terms, by their criteria) at all. 

In a brilliant paper prepared for the founding meeting of 
the Society for the Philosophy of Psychology (Massachusetts 
Institute of Technology, October 26, 1974), D. C. Dennett lays 
all this out clearly. Titled "Why the Law of Effect Will Not 
Go Away," the paper focuses on cognitive psychology but is 
relevant here by virtue of the explicit way it relates the Law of 
Effect to Darwinism. In the general terms in which Thorn- 
dike introduced that law, it holds that actions followed by 
reward are repeated. It is not a particularly good law; as 
Dennett says, its history has been "the history of ever more 
sophisticated failures to get [it] to do enough tvork."^^ Despite 
this, its tenacity exceeds that of old generals; it refuses not only 
to retire but to fade away. Periodically it is given a new title — 
the Law of Primary Reinforcement (Hull), the Principle of 

18. Nature. CLXXIII, 4397 (Feb. 6, 1954), 227. 

19. Journal of the Theory of Social Behaviour. V, 2 (1976), 172. Sub- 
sequent page references in the text are to this article. 


Operant Conditioning (Skinner) — but rather than improving 
its performance these honorifics merely kick it upstairs, so to 
speak. Whence, then, its extraordinary lien on life? "It is not 
just mulishness or proproprietary pride," says Dennett, "that 
has kept behaviorists from . . . look[ing] for another funda- 
mental principle of more power . . . but rather something like 
the conviction that the Law of Effect is not just a good idea, 
but the only possible good idea for this job" of explaining 
intelligence (p. 172). "There is something right in this convic- 
tion," Dennett continues, that something being that it is the 
only idea that has been proposed that does not beg the ques- 
tion. But there is also something wrong with the idea. And 

what is wrong in it has had an ironic result: allegiance to the Law 
of Effect in its behavioristic or peripheralistic versions has forced 
psychologists to beg small questions left and right in order to keep 
from begging the big question. One "saves" the Law of Effect from 
persistent counterinstances by the ad hoc postulation of reinforcers 
and stimulus histories for which one has not the slightest grounds 
except the demands of the theory, [p. 173] 

The reason for this cross-reference to psychology is, to repeat, 
that "the Law of Effect is closely analogous to the principle of 
natural selection," having been, indeed, consciously modeled 
after it. From a "population" of stimulus-response pairs, bom 
of random responses to a given stimulus, the nervous system 
reinforces pairs that are adaptive. This "selects" them by in- 
creasing the probability that they will recur "while their mal- 
adaptive or merely neutral brethren suffer 'extinction,' not by 
being killed (all particular stimulus-response pairs come to 
swift ends), but by failing to reproduce. The analogy [to Dar- 
winism] is very strong, very satisfying, and very familiar." It 
is equally strong in the so-called dry, as opposed to biological 
or wet, approach to the study of learning and intelligence, the 
science of Artificial Intelligence which works with "thinking 
machines." Problem-solving computer programs are designed 
to generate and test. At a given point or points, the program 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 137 

sets up generating and testing units. The generating unit in- 
vents candidates for the problem's solution and transmits 
them to the testing unit, which accepts or rejects them on the 
basis of stored criteria. This again is like natural selection, as 
Herbert Simon points out.^" Artificial Intelligence and cogni- 
tive psychology work from opposite ends of the scale. Artificial 
Intelligence begins with mechanisms that obviously lack intel- 
ligence — magnetic tapes whose segments do or do not conduct 
electrical currents — and tries to construct intelligence from 
these, whereas cognitive psychology begins with creatures that 
obviously have intelligence and tries to work back to neuron 
firings, nerve reflexes, and selector mechanisms that are as 
mechanical as computer operations. But forward or backward, 
the object is the same: to derive intelligence from things that 
do not possess it in the least. For 

psychology must not of course be question-begging. It must not 
explain intelligence in terms of intelligence, for instance by assign- 
ing responsibility for the existence of intelligence in creatures to 
the munificence of an intelligent Creator, or by putting clever 
homunculi at the control panels of the nervous system. If that 
were the best psychology could do, then psychology could not do 
the job assigned it. [p. 171] 

The same holds for biology. The attraction of natural selection 
is that it seeks to 

provide clearly non-question-begging accounts. Darwin explains a 
world of final causes and teleological laws with a principle 4hat is 
utterly independent of "meaning" or "purpose." It assumes a world 
that is absurd in the existentialist's sense of the term: not ludicrous 
but pointless, and this assumption is a necessary condition of any 
non-question-begging account of purpose, [pp. 171-72] 

In sentences that are remarkable for the light they throw on 
the life sciences as enterprises — how they proceed, and how 
their procedures affect their findings by stipulating the kind of 

20. The Sciences of the Artificial (Cambridge: MJ.T. Press, 1969), pp. 


findings that will be accepted — Dennett sums up the matter as 

Whether we can imagine a non-mechanistic but also non-ques- 
tion-begging principle for explaining design in the biological world 
is doubtful; it is tempting to see the commitment to non-question- 
begging accounts here as tantamount to a commitment to mechan- 
istic materialism, but the priority of these commitments is clear. 
It is not that one's prior prejudice in favor of materialism gives 
one reason to accept Darwin's principle because it is materialistic, 
but rather that one's prior acknowledgment of the constraint 
against begging the question gives one reason to adopt materialism 
once one sees that Darwin's non-question-begging account of design 
or purpose in nature is materialistic. One argfues: Darwin's ma- 
terialistic theory may not be the only non-question-begging theory 
of these matters, but it is one such theory, and the only one we 
have found, which is quite a good reason for espousing materialism, 
[p. 172] 

To what degree this entire approach is likely to succeed — life 
out of nonlife, intelligence out of its absence, explanation out 
of that which in no way contains that which is to be explained 
— cannot, of course, be simply adjudicated. The question is 
fundamental; in a way the whole swing from tradition to 
modernity turns on it, and the point of this book is to help tip 
the lever back to its earlier, more natural, we contend, position. 
Charges of begging the question can settle nothing here, for 
the petitio is not a fallacy in the form of an argument; to in- 
voke it, therefore, when the question concerns the truth-status 
of an argument's material premises or unvoiced assumptions is 
to commit the very fallacy that is being charged. Apart from 
material considerations, it is doubtful that the fallacy can even 
be clearly stated. An inquiry to a colleague in logic requesting 
a definition of the fallacy of begging the question brings word 
that the subject is in dispute and references to three current 
journal articles. Hoping to avoid this detour which looks as 
though it could lead into a bog, we ask what he would say if a 
student were to ask him straightforwardly what that fallacy is. 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 139 

He answers: "I would tell him no dear formulation of it 

We were trying to account for the inflated status of the 
evolutionary hypothesis and have found thus far, beyond the 
way it buttresses hope, a methodological reason: the fact that 
it is the only candidate that meets the formal requirements for 
being scientific lets it get by with less supporting data than 
would otherwise be required. A corresponding ontological 
reason is that in the world with which science works, there is 
nowhere else to look for life's origin. Paraphrasing Sir James of 
a few pages back, we can say that if scientists prefer to think 
improbably than not to think at all, they would likewise rather 
pull rabbits out of hats than out of thin air, literally ex nihilo. 
From this second, ontological angle, we can join Burckhardt in 
ascribing part of evolutionism's force to "an incapacity — 
pecular to modem science — to conceive 'dimensions' of reality 
other than those of purely physical sequences; to understand 
the 'vertical' genesis of species.''^! 

What is this vertical genesis of species? If we were to answer 
"God" this would not be incorrect, but the doctrine of "special 
creation" has become so weighted down with anthropomorphic 
imagery that we do better here to use its less personalized 
variant. The nonanthropoporphic counterpart of special crea- 
tion is emanation. In the celestial realm the species are never 
absent; their essential forms or archetypes reside there from an 
endless beginning. As earth ripens to receive them, each in its 
turn drops22 to the terrestrial plane and, donning the world's 
fabric, gives rise to a new life form. The origin of species is 

First a viable habitat must be devised, hence the inorganic 
universe is matured to the point where life can be sustained. 
And when living beings do arrive, they do so in a vaguely as- 

21. "Cosmology and Modern Science," p. 147. 

22. After Chapter 2 on "The Symbolism of Space," we use words like 
this comfortably, trusting that the reader will not impute false literalisms 
to them. 


cending order that passes from relatively undifferentiated 
organisms — though not simple ones; the electron microscope 
shows unicellular organisms to be astonishingly complicated — 
to ones that are more complex. But there is no need to force 
the fossil record to show a univocal and continuous line. If 
the movement proceeds in jumps with whole categories of 
plants and animals bursting out at once without discernible 
predecessors, this presents no problem. There is no need to 
multiply hypotheses by positing a thread that unites the vari- 
ous classes of life, such as insect, fish, reptile, bird, and mam- 
mal. We need not strain to see in the fins by which certain 
fishes flap their ways on shore rudiments of the articulation 
that arms and paws require but which fins show no beginnings 
of. Nor exaggerate the resemblance of birds to reptiles in an 
effort to prove that one derived from the other, an exercise 
that must proceed in the face of glaring differences in skeletal 
structure and the fact that the hearing apparatuses in the two 
orders are modeled on altogether different plans. If the tortoise 
turns up all at once in fossil remains or the spider appears 
simultaneously with its prey and with its faculty of weaving 
fully developed, such facts can be welcomed with smiles instead 
of puzzled brows. 

As for the variant forms which Darwinists must use to con- 
struct their largely hypothetical bridges between species, from 
the metaphysical perspective these appear as variations which 
the species in question allow. It is as if nature, always more pro- 
lific and life-loving than we had supposed, first staked out 
distinct species and then decided to ring changes on these 
by having each reflect the forms of the others insofar as it could 
do so without transgressing its own essential limits. Seen in 
this light, variations are not generative links between species — 
it has yet to be shown what the dolphin, say, is a link to or 
from. They are, rather, mimics; they show species imitating the 
ways and forms of species that in essence are foreign to them. 
Not solely for utilitarian reasons of adaptation and survival, 
we may add; in part — larger part — for lila, the divine play: 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 141 

sheer protean exuberance. Esse qua esse so bonum est (being as 
being is so good) that God cannot resist any of its possibilities. 
Wishing with part of herself to be a mother, a child dons apron 
and suckles her doll. Dolphins and whales are the archetypal 
mammal wondering what it would be like to be a fish; armadil- 
los the result of its thinking, "Wouldn't it be interesting to 
dress up in scales and play reptile?"^' Pressing the image a bit, 
we might say that hummingbirds in their mode of feeding 
and flight and their iridescent coloring are birds fancying 
themselves as butterflies. It is like Indra's Net, each jewel re- 
flecting the others and being reflected in them. 

Admitting that, to revert to an earlier image, we are perform- 
ing here like the generating unit of a computer and not its 
testing unit, we push on to venture that the skeletons that 
evolutionists take to be protohuman may in fact be post- 
human. They may be the deposits of degenerate epigones, tail 
ends of earlier human cycles (yugas) that were drawing to their 
close. After all, myths recount devolution more than evolution, 
and we know for a fact that later human forms are not neces- 
sarily more advanced: Steinheim man preceded Neanderthal 
but was more "evolved." If it be asked, "Where, then, are the 
remains of these 'giants who walked the earth in those days'?" 
it might be answered that in his beginnings, when he stood 
close to provenient spirit, man was ethereal to the point of 
leaving less in the way of ossified remains. 

If this seems altogether too fantastic, we can at least take 
satisfaction in the fact that at last we have delivered on the 
promise with which we introduced this subject of human 
origins, the promise that we would say something faintly 
scandalous. If in doing so we h^ve gone too far — so far perhaps 
as to cause the reader to close the book — it is not without 
design that we have reserved these speculations for the book's 

23. We are speaking in the mode of Platonic myth, one consequence of 
which is that the reader will not be able to determine how literally we 
intend such statements because we are not sure ourselves. All we feel 
confident of is that they contain more truth than the alternatives they 
intend to counter. 


closing chapter. In defense we say but this. Though we have 
not been unserious in anything we have postulated, the point 
we are most convinced of is the following: Whatever the utility 
of contemporary biological models for discovering useful specif- 
ics like antibiotics, for the understanding of life these models 
are largely useless. Moreover, they mislead.^* The first shall be 
last and the last first, we are told. We have seen how in the 
microcosm/macrocosm mirror inversion, this decrees that man, 
who is first in the order of worth on the terrestrial plane, will 
be last in the order of his appearance. Now the converse: the 
last shall be first. Among the sciences, physics is ontologically 
the lowliest: it treats of matter in its most elementary arrange- 
ments. Concomitantly it is the first of the empirical sciences 
to "see through" its subject to a glimmering beyond. It knows 
the derivative character of space and time; the unimageable, 
transcendent character of the real. Even assuming that in 
specifics and details what we have ourselves postulated in these 
pages may be quite mistaken, we feel certain of this: if modern 
science continues, the current working premises in biology, 
Darwinism included, will in time (possibly quite a short time) 
show themselves to have been as inadequate as were Newton's. 
The life sciences will crash through them as through a sound 
barrier. On that glad day biologists will begin to talk like 
physicists. Like Richard Feynman, say: "We have to find a new 
view of the world." Or Freeman Dyson: "For any speculation 
which does not at first look crazy, there is no hope." 

At last we have completed our excursus on evolution. As it 
has monopolized the better part of this chapter on hope, we 
trust that its object has not been lost from view. With the 
buckling of science and technology as props for the idea of 
progress, evolution has become its principal support. (This 
accounts for the emotional investment in Teilhard de Chardin, 

24. "Though modern scientific knowledge reveals much that was pre- 
viously unknown, ... it hides or supplants much more." Lord North- 
bourne, Looking Back on Progress (London: Perennial Books, 1970), p. 
116. The present chapter is deeply indebted to this lucid little book. 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 143 

We know of no other twentieth-century thinker who has an 
entire journal devoted to the propagation of his theses.) Part 
of us feels bad about disturbing this prop, for in an age that 
has sealed over other outlets for hope, to undermine evolution, 
the last remaining prop for progress, which in the modern 
world has become the last remaining refuge for hope, is to 
undermine hope itself, and hope is indispensable to human 
well-being; this was this chapter's opening premise. But truth 
or consequences — when one must choose between them, jnana 
yogins at least, those whose approach to God (Reality) is by 
way of knowledge (gnosis), will understand that choice must 
favor the former. If within this vast universe a thread of life 
were to angle always upward, leaving a trail that looked from 
a distance like the jet stream of an ascending plane, such a 
never-circling life force would be a freak. For everywhere else 
— name one exception — nature favors the curves that space it- 
self conforms to; the yin-yang rhythms of turning gyres and 
waves that crest and fall. O my people! can you not see how it 
is hope, not fact, that powers this dream of onward and up- 
ward toward the dawning light? If human life is truly natural 
— and this, surely, the evolutionists would want us to believe — 
it is seasonal. Fall and winter are its lot as assuredly as summer 
and spring. Half the art of living is a talent for dying. 

Its other half, of course, is its talent for living, and this 
requires above all else an inward eye. Body dies, but the soul 
and spirit that animate it live on in ways that can be inferred 
from the Levels of Selfhood as described in Chapter 4. At death 
man is ushered into the unimaginable expanse of a reality no 
longer fragmentary but total. Its all-revealing light shows up his 
earthly career for what it truly was, and the revelation comes 
at first as judgment. The pretenses, rationalizations, and delu- 
sions that structured and warped his days are now glaringly 
evident. And because the self is now identified with its Mind or 
vital center rather than its Body as these terms were employed 
in Chapter 4, Mind's larger norms, to which the embodied 
ego paid little more than lip service, now hold the balance. It 


is thus that in hell man condemns himself; in the Koran it is 
his own members that rise up to accuse him. Once the self is 
extracted from the realm of lies, the falsities by which it 
armored itself within that realm become like flames and the 
life it there led like a shirt of Nessus.^^ When the flames have 
consumed these falsities — or to use other language, when truth 
has set the distortions of terrestrial existence in perspective — 
the balance is restored and the distortions, too, are seen to have 
had their place. This is forgiveness. With it, the Mind recedes 
as the Body earlier did at death, and the self, which is to say 
attention and identification, passes to the Soul's immortal 
center, which is now freed for the beatific vision. Lost in con- 
tinual adoration and wonder, it abides in the direct presence 
of the Living God who is Being Itself. Beyond this, where the 
film that separates knower from known is itself removed and 
the self sinks into the Spirit that is the Infinite. . . . Ah, but 
we can say no more. We have reached the Cloud of Unknow- 
ing, where the rest is Silence. 

If this sounds "old-fashioned," we trust that those who 
make this charge are not blind to the fact that it is the tacit 
progress-premise underlying that word that has turned it into 
a pejorative. We need not romanticize the past. If the most 
primitive people now living on the earth are also its sweetest 
and gentlest,2« there are other primitives who are sadists. And 

25. "The experience of death resembles that of a man who has lived all 
his life in a dark room and suddenly finds himself transported to a 
mountain top; there his gaze would embrace all the wide landscape; the 
works of men would seem insignificant to him. It is thus that the soul 
torn from the earth and from the body perceives the inexhaustible diversity 
of things and the incommensurable abysses of the worlds which contain 
them; for the first time it sees itself in its universal context, in an in- 
exorable concatenation and in a network of multitudinous and unsuspected 
relationships, and takes account of the fact that life had been but an 
'instant', but a 'play'. Projected into the absolute 'nature of things' man 
is inescapably aware of what he is in reality; he knows himself ontologically 
and without deforming perspective in the light of the normative 'propor- 
tions' of the Universe." F. Schuon, Understanding Islam (Baltimore: Pen- 
guin Books, 1972), p. 85. 

26. John Nance, The Gentle Tasaday (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovano- 
vich, 1975). 

HOPE, yes; progress, no / 145 

as for history, it shows grotesque aberrations as well as mag- 
nificent achievements; we do not have to be reminded of tyran- 
nies of altar and throne, the rigidities of imperial legalisms, 
or the closedness of respectable mores and the sectarian spirit. 
It is only in cosmic outlook that we see the past as superior to 
ourselves and qualified to be our teacher; there may be other 
ways, but we have not tried to sift the record. That there have 
been in this world, and are today in lingering pockets, meta- 
physical doctrines that are complete along with means for their 
realization — this is a notion that for moderns is barely con- 
ceivable, but it has emerged as the thesis of this book. In this 
day of neophilia and reflective embrace of the new, when 
"What's new?" has become standard salutation and quipsters 
tell us they want even their antiques to be of the latest variety; 
in this time when clergy themselves have grown "trendy" in 
worship of their God who is "not yet" (Moltmann); this age 
of flourishing futurists when almost the only way to get atten- 
tion is to claim to be privy to some new discovery, it gives us 
the most exceptional pleasure, the most piquant delight, to 
announce what in today's climate of opinion may be the most 
novel, original, and unexpected prediction imaginable. The 
wave of the future will be a return to the past. "There is only 
the fight to recover what has been lost / And found and lost 
again and again."^*^ "I sing the songs of olden times with 
adoration. "28 

27. T. S. Eliot, "Four Quartets: East Coker," The Complete Poems' and 
Plays, 1909-1950 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1952), p. 128. 

28. Svetasvatara Upanishad, II.5. 

The master said, Who expects to be able to go 
out of a house except by the door? How is it then 
that no one follows this Way of ours? 

CONFUCIUS, Analects, VI. 15 

7 EpiloquE 

Truth, Elie Wiesel has reminded us, is betrayed by its 
repetition. Insofar as things have been said, there is no need 
to resay them. Is there anything respecting our thesis that has 
not been said and needs to be said? 

Perhaps some misunderstandings can be anticipated and 

Our equation of tradition with norm, of what is inherited 
(traditio, to hand over) with what should be espoused, may 
sound to some like a counsel to "turn back the clocks" — as if 
history could ever be reversed or an old man grow young again. 
If we have left the impression that the primordial philosophy 
counsels reversion, we should speak more plainly. The needed 
return — a kind of homecoming — is in outlook only; it is in 
world view and sense of reality, and even here phrases such as 
"going back" are imprecise. For the issue does not really con- 
cern time at all; it concerns truth, truth of the kind that is 
time/^55. If we have appealed to past ages it is because we see 
them as having been bathed in such truth to a degree that we 
are not. In this respect we would indeed be pleased to see life 
on earth recover a lost dimension, and are grateful for persons 
who are working to reknit the rich coherence of a fully human 
consciousness which the cramped and aggressive rationality of 
modernity has bruised so badly. But our opportunity is not in 
any literal sense to go back, a move that in a thousand ways is 
impossible even if it were desirable. Bygone days really are 



gone, and many specifics of "the good old days" would not be 
good in our context. 

What we might do is get back on course. This distinction be- 
tween reverting to the past and realigning ourselves with the 
truth suggests a companion distinction respecting the word 
"original." The preceding chapter closed by alluding to the cult 
of originality which has become a hallmark of our time. We 
may now extend this allusion by pointing out that the kind of 
originality that has become fashionable — namely, that which 
feeds on difference and tokens departure — is limited to a single 
facet of the word; one, moreover, that is relatively late and 
superficial. Foundationally the word pointed in the opposite 
direction, to that which derives directly from its source or 
origin and is close to it, like water that is pure and uncontam- 
inated by side influences and admixtures. 

The spacious firmament on high, 
With all the blue ethereal sky. 
And spangled heavens, a shining frame. 
Their great Original proclaim.* 

"Originality is thus related to inspiration, and above all to reve- 
lation, for the origins are transcendent, being beyond this 
world, in the domains of Spirit. Ultimately the origin is noth- 
ing less than the Absolute, the Infinite and Eternal,"^ and 
originality a guarantor of both authenticity and effectuality. In 
this fundamental sense of the word, a sense that carries the 
prospect of a progressive awakening in the direction of man's 
root and source, our book is a call for originality at all costs. 

Developments will occur, of course; on the terrestrial plane 
nothing escapes change, and this holds as much for religions as 
for individuals and civilizations. Nor are changes in all respects 

1. Joseph Addison, "Ode," in The Spectator, No. 465, Aug. 23, 1712. 
John Ruskin distinguishes the two senses of original as follows: "That 
virtue or originality that men so strain after is not newness (as they vainly 
think), it is only genuineness; it all depends on this single glorious faculty 
of getting to the spring of things and working out from that." 

2. Martin Lings, What Is Sufismf (Berkeley: University of California 
Press, 1975). p. 15. 


deleterious. Respecting religions, change often involves a 
double movement whose aspects to some extent balance one 
another. On the one hand the collectivity degenerates in pro- 
portion to its distance from the Revelation that launched it, 
while on the other hand, with respect to doctrine, the tradition 
blooms, values that were implicit from the start being now 
articulated. Thus a progressive and compensating unfolding 
occurs within the very framework of a general decline.^ Five 
hundred years after the initial Vedic revelation, Brahmanism 
was in danger of ossifying in formalism and privilege: at 
precisely that moment the Upanishads appeared. Implicit 
wisdom was made explicit and rishis developed the techniques 
of yoga. Five hundred years after the Buddha, his tradition 
stood in like danger; it was on the verge of shriveling to a 
monasticism without possibility of expanding radiation. It was 
then that the Mahayana burgeoned, overlaying the "holy 
selfishness" of the Pratyeka Buddhas with the ideal of the 
compassionate Bodhisattva, and again the day was saved. In 
Judaism the time of the Psalms and the Song of Solomon 
could not possibly have been that of the Pentateuch, any more 
than the Kabbalah could have unfolded before the Middle 
Ages. The Christianity of the desert fathers flowers in the 
Middle Ages more gently under the sign of the Virgin Mother 
and gives rise in turn to pure gnosis in the Rhineland mystics 
and aspects of Scholasticism. In Islam the successive disintegra- 
tion of empires and the sundering rift between Sunnis and 
Shi'ites are redeemed by the progressive unfolding of Sufism 
and the growth of its invigorating orders. It would be wrong 
to conclude from these examples that religions never decline 

3. A similar pattern can often be seen in the history of art. "Strange as 
it may seem, it has always happened in the history of art, that by the time 
perfection of technique has been attained, inspiration has declined. It was 
so in Greece, and in Europe after the Renaissance. It almost seems as if 
concentration upon technique hindered the free working of the imagina- 
tion a little; if so, however much we desire both, do not let us make any 
mistake as to which is first." A. K. Coomaraswamy, "The Aims of Indian 
Art," Studies in Comparative Religion, Winter 1975, p. 7. 


and die. History shows that they do and logic that they must; 
belonging as they do to the order of finitude, their days are 
numbered from the start. The point of the illustrations is to 
correct a misreading this book might otherwise provoke: the 
mistake of assuming that the traditions teach that earlier is in 
every way better and the present without redeeming prospects 
of any sort. 

A second misunderstanding could arise from the book's 
pronounced inwardness. A book of many silences, its silence on 
society is apt in these extroverted days to be particularly no- 
ticed and could raise the specter of social irresponsibility. On 
the question of how society might be benefited, tradition har- 
bors insights almost equal to the ontological insights our pages 
have explored, beginning with its recognition that the issue 
is so complex that, depending on the context in question, the 
answer can range from jihad (holy warfare)* to wu wei ("the 
way to do is to be"). Obviously we are not going to get into 
this subject in an epilogue;'^ we note only that to charge the 
primordial perspective with social indifference is calumny. 
The fact that Confucius trudged for a decade trying to per- 
suade rulers to convert his doctrines into practice, to say 
nothing of Muhammad, who in a relatively short time drew 
out of nothingness one of the greatest empires of history and 
a religion that has imposed and maintained itself on a quarter 
of the inhabited globe for nearly a millennium and a half — 
these facts alone should suffice to show that the issue tradition 
poses is not that of contemplation versus action or even socio- 
political action. In this area the issue is simply that of balance 
and proportion, the balance that derives from a sense of pro- 
portion, infinite matters being accorded infinite regard and 
finite ones being regarded conditionally, Christ tells us to "seek 

4. Though even here Muhammad's characterization of overt physical 
combat as "the lesser jihad" must be remembered. "The greater jihad" is 
that directed against the foe within. 

5. Gai Eaton's manuscript, "Choice and Responsibility," on which we 
have drawn a number of times in passing, will, if published, be a useful 
introduction to the topic. 


. . . first the Kingdom," and even a tradition as occupied with 
society as is Confucianism observes that 

If there be righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty 
in the character. 

If there be beauty in the character, there will be harmony 
in the home. 

If there be harmony in the home, there will be order in the 

If there be order in the nation, there will be peace in the world 
(The Great Learning). 

It happened to have been Muhammad's destiny to penetrate 
versatilely an exceptionally wide range of earthy experience: 
not only was he shepherd, merchant, hermit, exile, soldier, law- 
giver, and prophet-priest-king; he was also orphan (but with a 
remarkably loving grandfather and uncle), for many years the 
husband of one wife much older than himself, a many times 
bereaved father, a widower, and finally the husband of many 
wives, some much younger than himself.^ What sanctified 
this earthly plenitude was the degree to which it was dominated 
by acute and unswerving sensitivity to the magnetism of the 
Hereafter. "Do for this world," he said, "as if thou wert to 
live a thousand years and for the next as if thou wert to die 
tomorrow." On the one hand this Hadith "enjoins the per- 
fection — the patient thoroughness we might say — incumbent 
upon man as representative of God on earth: and on the 
other hand it demands that he shall be ready to leave this 
world at a moment's notice.'"^ Inaanuch as this terrestrial 
plane is our current lot, it is not only-natural but appropriate 
for us to feel concern for our daily problems and those of 
our neighbors. We build our sand castles because we need 
them, and in their small way they are beautiful, reflecting 
in their fragile moats and turrets the patterns of another place, 
a more enduring realm. But every man and woman is infinitely 

6. Martin Lings, What Is Sufism? p. 34. 

7. Ibid. 


more than the child that plays thus in salt and sand, even as 
a seed contains in virtuality a great tree: "O high-born race of 
foreigners on earth . . . you do not belong here, you belong 
somewhere else."^ Moreover, our entire visible cosmos rests 
on an invisible volcano. We imagine that our earth, its moun- 
tain ranges and unplumbed seas, can be destroyed only by 
forces of its own kind, by masses and energies that are in some 
way physical, but in this we are mistaken. The world, in ap- 
pearance so resilient, so substantial, can withdraw "from 
within." Matter can flow back to the immaterial source from 
which it came, causing the entire space-time field to collapse 
like a balloon that is emptied of air. Our marvel consists in 
the fact that, possessed as we are of souls and Spirit, we can 
escape this collapse by retreating, or rather advancing, into 
the mathematical point, our unchanging Center which is non- 
spatial. All discussion of social problems and the dangers that 
press upon us should proceed in the context of this realization. 
They must be given their fair measure of concern but not 

We said that the visible cosmos rests on an invisible volcano, 
but we must now add that at a deeper ontological level it floats 
on an ocean of bliss. The addition is needed to offset a third 
possible misunderstanding of the primordial outlook, the last 
that we shall mention: namely, that the view is pessimistic. At 
first glance it is difficult to take this supposition seriously: does 
a reader suppose that we would have taken the pains to write 
this book for the object of piping man into a gloomier mood 
than the one he now enjoys? we impulsively wonder.^ On 
second thought, however, one sees how charges of pessimism 

8. Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos, 136.13. 

9. "Freud's very pessimism and cynicism is still the most contemporary 
thing about his thought," Ernest Becker wrote in The Denial of Death 
(New York: Free Press, 1973), p. 94. As a barometric reading, the sentence 
would be worth quoting had it ended there, but the way it continues makes 
it interesting in another respect: ". . . it is a pessimism grounded in reality, 
in scientific truth," Becker concludes. We have ourselves said many things 
about science in this book; none, we trust, as irresponsible as this. 


and failure of nerve arise. If optimism requires (on its nega- 
tive side) refusal to accept imperfection as an inherent feature 
of the terrestrial world, or (stated positively) faith in historical 
progress, optimism is indeed unavailable to the traditions. But 
only a logic that is blind to alternatives could conclude from 
this that the traditions are pessimistic in their own right. 
Characterizing the South Asian formulation of the primordial 
outlook, Heinrich Zimmer writes: 

Philosophical theory, religious belief, and intuitive experience 
support each other ... in the basic insight that, fundamentally, all 
is well. A supreme optimism prevails everywhere, in spite of the 
unromantic recognition that the universe of man's affairs is in the 
most imperfect state imaginable, one amounting practically to 
chaos. 1° 

Toward the middle of this book we said that at heart what 
sets us against modernity is its determination, scientistically 
derived, to reverse tradition's premise and explain the more in 
terms of the less. Even there we noted the inevitable though 
subtle consequence of this reversal: the more becomes lessened 
by the etiology. Now, at the book's close, we focus on this con- 
sequence itself and say that what sets us against modernity is 
its demeaning of the human potential. The primordial tradi- 
tion holds that man — ^not man in some hypothetically envis- 
ioned future, but man as he is constituted today arid has always 
been constituted — is heir to Sat, Chit, and Ananda: Infinite 
Being, Infinite Awareness, Infinite Bliss. It is impossible in 
principle for any alternative, ancient or modern, to match 
that claim, for if it did, in essence it >rould be the primordial 
philosophy, however different its details. In Dante's Inferno 
souls have what they choose. The fate of those he classifies as 
"virtuous pagans" derives from nothing more than their 
failure to imagine better. 

The traditions are realistic. Buddha saw the waters of the 
seas as but a drop compared with the tears men have shed since 

10. The Philosophies of India (New York: Pantheon Books, 1951). p. 549. 


they reached the earth: "I teach ill," he said. But we know that 
his assertion did not end there; "I teach ill and the ending of 
ill," it continued. Our world is by definition a grimy, flawed, 
and broken place; it is subject to decay and riddled with 
death. If it were otherwise, it would be indistinguishable from 
the timeless perfection of Paradise and would forfeit its sep- 
arate existence. Yet with all its deformities it can be rendered 
transparent, and perfection can be discerned behind its shapes 
and patterns; it can also be loved in a way that turns its flaws 
themselves into objects of redeeming compassion. This is the 
spiritual counterpart of the fact that with all its smog and 
pollution, our planet rides in an ocean of sunlight through the 
innermost recesses of the solar system. Being is woven of 
beatitude; there is a Buddha in every grain of sand, 

"The world," said St. Augustine, "is a smiling place," As 
for the Celestial City to which it is antechamber, "Brethren, 
when I speak of that City . . , I just cannot bring myself to 
stop. . , ."11 The only way to stop is to modulate discernment to 
heights where words, having reached their timberline, can go 
no further. 

Guide us to that topmost height of mystic lore which exceedeth 
light and more than exceedeth knowledge, where the simple, 
absolute, and unchangeable mysteries of heavenly Truth lie hidden 
in the dazzling obscurity of the secret Silence, outshining all bril- 
liance with the intensity of their darkness, and surcharging our 
blinded intellects with the utterly impalpable and invisible fair- 
ness of glories which exceed all beauty! Such be my prayer.12 

11. Sermon, 158.7; Enarrationes in Psalmos, 136.13. 

12. Dionysius the Areopagite, The Divine Names and The Mystical 
Theology (London: S.P.C.K., 1971), p. 191. 


Daniel Ellsberg, reading this book in page proofs, has called 
my attention to something worth stopping the presses for. On 
pages 41 and 129, in pointing out tradition's inversion of the 
modern propensity to derive the more from the less, the better 


from sources that are inferior, I cited the Marxist contention 
that order derives from chaos. This is, of course, the way Marxism 
is read; it looks toward a classless society while asserting as the 
opening claim of The Communist Manifesto that "The history 
of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." 
But that was written in 1847. Forty-one years later the findings 
of the anthropologists had advanced to the point where they 
could not be ignored, and Engels was forced to append a foot- 
note. Thus, to the sentence just quoted the 1888 edition adds, 
"That is, all written history." 

In view of the ratio of unwritten to written history, it is just 
possible that no other footnote, ever penned, retracts so much. 


TIhe PsyclHEdElic EvidEiNCE 

Know ten things, the Chinese say^ tell nine — there is reason 
to question whether it is wise even to mention the psychedelics in 
connection with God and the Infinite. For though a connection 
exists, it is — as in the comparable case of the role of sex in Tantra 
— next to impossible to speak of it without being misunderstood. It 
is for this reason, we suspect, that the Eleusinian mysteries were 
among the best-kept in history, and Brahmins came eventually to 
conceal, then deliberately forget, the identity of soma.i 

If the only thing to say about the psychedelics was that they 
seem on occasion to offer direct disclosures of the psychic and celestial 
planes as well as (in rare instances) the Infinite itself, we would hold 
our peace. For though such experiences may be veridical in ways, 
the goal, it cannot be stressed too often, is not religious experiences; 
it is the religious life. And with respect to the latter, psychedelic 
"theophanies" can abort a quest as readily as, perhaps more readily 
than, they can further it. 

It is not, therefore, the isolated mystical experiences which the 
psychedelics can occasion that lead us to add this appendix on the 
subject, but rather evidence of a different order. Long-term, profes- 
sionally garnered and carefully weighed, this latter evidence deserves 
to be called, if anything in this area merits the term, scientific. We 
enter it because of the ways in which, and extent to which, this 
evidence seems to corroborate the primordial anthropology that Chap- 

1. See the author's "Wasson's SOMA: A Review Article," Journal of the 
American Academy of Religion, XL, 4 (Dec. 1972). 



ter 4 sketched in paradigm. In contradistinction to writings on the 
psychedelics which are occupied with experiences the mind can 
have, the concern here is with evidence they afford as to what the 
mind is.^ 

The evidence in question is not widely known, for to date it has 
been reported only in a few relatively obscure journals and a book 
but recently off the press. At the same time, judged both by quantity 
of data encompassed and by the explanatory power of the hypotheses 
that make sense of this data, it is the most formidable evidence the 
psychedelics have thus far produced. The evidence to which we re- 
fer is that which has emerged through the work of Stanislav Grof.3 

Grof's work began in Czechoslovakia, where for four years he 
worked in an interdisciplinary complex of research institutes in 
Prague and for another seven in the Psychiatric Research Institute 
that developed out of this complex; on coming to the United States 
in 1967 he continued his investigations at the Research Unit of 
Spring Grove State Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Two covering 
facts about his work are worth noting before we turn to its content. 
First, in the use of psychedelics for therapeutic and personality as- 
sessment, his experience is by far the vastest that any single individ- 
ual has amassed, covering as it does over 2,500 sessions in which he 
spent a minimum of five hours with the subject. In addition his stud- 
ies cover another 8oo cases his colleagues at Baltimore and Prague 
conducted. Second, in spanning the Atlantic his work spans the two 

2- "LSD, the most powerful psycho-active drug ever known to man, is 
essentially an unspecific ampli^er of mental processes. What we see in 
LSD sessions is only an exteriorization and magnification of dynamics that 
underlie human nature and human civilization. Properly used, the drug is 
a tool for a deeper understanding of the human mind and human nature." 
Abridged from the writings of Stanislav Grof, cited in footnote 3. 

3. His book, the first in a projected five-volume series, is Realms of the 
Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research (New York: Viking 
Press, 1975). His journal articles are: "Beyond Psychoanalysis: 1. Implica- 
tions of LSD Research for Understanding Dimensions of Human Per- 
sonality," Darshana International (India, 1970); "LSD Psychotherapy and 
Human Culture," Journal of the Study of Consciousness, Part I, 1970, Part 
II, 1971; "The Use of LSD in Psychotherapy," Journal of Psychedelic 
Drugs," 1970; "Varieties of Transpersonal Experiences: Observations from 
LSD Psychotherapy," Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 1972; "LSD 
and the Cosmic Game: Outline of Psychedelic Cosmology and Ontology," 
Journal of the Study of Consciousness, 1972; and one more which, because 
it is his latest paper, will be quoted most often in this chapter. It is cited in 
footnote 4. 


dominant approaches to psychedelic therapy that have been devel- 
oped: psycholytic therapy (used at Prague and favored in Europe 
generally), which involves numerous administrations of low to med- 
ium doses of LSD or variant over a long therapeutic program, and 
psychedelic therapy (confined to America), which involves one or a 
few high .doses in a short period of treatment. 

The first thing Grof and his associates discovered was that there 
is no specific pharmacological effect which LSD invariably produces: 
"I have not been able to find a single phenomenon that could be 
considered an invariant product of the chemical action of the drug 
in any of the areas studied — perceptual, emotional, ideational, and 
physical. "4 Not even mydriasis (prolonged dilatation of the pupils), 
one of the most common symptoms, occurs invariably. Psychological 
effects vary even more than do physiological, but the range of the 
latter — mydriasis, nausea, and vomiting, enhanced intestinal move- 
ments, diarrhea, constipation, frequent urination, acceleration as well 
as retardation of pulse, cardiac distress and pain, palpitations, suffo- 
cation and dyspnea, excessive sweating and hypersalivation, dry 
mouth, reddening of the skin, hot flushes and chills, instability and 
vertigo, inner trembling, fine muscle tremors— exceeds that of any 
other drug that affects the autonomic nervous system. These somatic 
symptoms are practically independent of dosage and occur in all pos- 
sible combinations. Variability between subjects is equaled by 
variation in the symptoms a single subject will experience under dif- 
ferent circumstances; particularly important from the clinical point 
of view are the differences that appear at different stages in the 
therapeutic process. All this led Grof to conclude that LSD is not 
a specific causal agent, but rather a catalyzer. It is, as footnote 2 
indicates, an unspecific amplifier of neural and mental processes. 
By exteriorizing for the therapist and raising to consciousness for 
the patient himself material otherwise buried, and by enlarging this 
material to the point of caricature so that it appears as if under a 
magnifying glass, the psychedelics are, Grof became convinced, an 

4. "Theoretical and Empirical Basis of Transpersonal Psychology and 
Psychotherapy: Observations from LSD Research," Journal of Trans- 
personal Psychology , 1973. Unless otherwise indicated, subsequent references 
in this appendix will he to this, Grof's latest paper. Also, though his work 
covers a wide spectrum of psychedelic substances, most of it was with 
LSD, so we shall limit our references to it. 


unrivaled instrument: first, for identifying causes in psychopathology 
(the problem that is causing the difficulty); second, for personality 
diagnosis (determining the character type of the subject in question); 
and third, for understanding the human mind generally. "It does 
not seem inappropriate to compare their potential significance for 
psychiatry and psychologjy to that of the microscope for medicine 
or of the telescope in astronomy. . . . Freud called dreams the 'royal 
way to the unconscious.' The statement is valid to a gpreater extent 
for LSD experiences."" 

Of the drug's three potentials, it is the third — its resources for 
enlarging our understanding of the human mind and self — that con- 
cerns us in this book. The nature of man has been so central to our 
study that even flickers of light from Grof's work would make it 
interesting. That the light proves to be remarkably clear and steady 
makes it important. 

We come at once to the point. The view of man that was outlined 
in Chapter 4 presented him as a multilayered creature, and Grof's 
work points to the same conclusion. As long as the matter is put 
thus generally it signals nothing novel, for existing depth psychologfy 
—psychiatry, psychoanalysis — says the same; the adjective "depth" 
implies as much, and metaphors of archaeology and excavation dot 
the writings of Freud, Jung, and their colleagues. The novelty of 
Grof's work lies in the precision with which the levels of the mind it 
brings to view correspond with the levels of selfhood the primordial 
tradition describes. 

In chemo-excavation the levels come to view sequentially. In 
this respect, too, images of archaeology apply: surface levels must be 
uncovered to get at ones that lie deeper. In psychedelic (high-dose) 
therapy the deeper levels appear later in the course of a single ses- 
sion; in psycholytic (low-dose) therapy they surface later in the 
sequence of therapeutic sessions. The sequences are parallel, but 
since the levels first came to Grof's attention during his psycholytic 
work in Pragfue, and since that earlier work was the more extensive, 
covering eleven of the seventeen years he has been working with the 

5. "Theory and Practice of LSD Psychotherapy" (U68). Instead of being 
published as a single volume as Grof originally intended, this long, initial 
report of his study is being reworked for projected issue in five volumes, 
the first of which, a? indicated in footnote 3, appeared in 1975. Page 
references to the comprehensive original report will hereafter be prefixed 
with a U, indicating unpublished. Page numbers not thus prefixed refer to 
the paper named in footnote 4. 


drugs, we shall confine ourselves to it in reporting his experimental 

The basic study at Prague covered fifty-two psychiatric patients. 
All major clinical categories were represented, from depressive dis- 
orders through psychoneuroses, psychosomatic diseases, and character 
disorders to borderline and clear-cut psychoses in the schizophrenic 
group. Patients with above-average intelligence were favored to ob- 
tain high-quality introspective reports; otherwise cases with dim 
prognosis in each category were chosen. Grof himself worked with 
twenty-two of the subjects, his two colleagues with the remainder. 
The number of psycholytic sessions ranged from fifteen to one 
hundred per patient with a total of over 2,500 sessions being con- 
ducted. Each patient's treatment began with several weeks of drug- 
free psychotherapy. Thereafter the therapy was punctuated with 
doses of 100 to 250 micrograms of LSD administered at seven- to 
fourteen-day intervals. 

The basic finding was that "when material from consecutive LSD 
sessions of the same person was compared it became evident that 
there was a definite continuity between these sessions. Rather than 
being unrelated and random, the material seemed to represent a suc- 
cessive unfolding of deeper and deeper levels of the unconscious with 
a very definite trend" (U41). 

The trend regularly led through three successive stages preceded 
by another which, being less important psychologically, Grof calls 
a preliminary phase. In this opening phase the chemical works 
primarily on the subject's body. In this respect it resembles what 
earlier researchers had called the vegetative phase, but the two 
are not identical. Proponents of a vegetative phase assumed that 
LSD directly caused the manifold somatic responses patients typically 
experience in the early stages of psychedelic sessions. We have seen 
that Grof's more extensive evidence countered this view. Vegetative 
symptoms are real enough, but they vary so much between subjects 
and for a single subject under varying circumstances that it seems 
probable that they are occasioned more by anxieties and resistances 
than by the chemical's direct action. There is also the fact that 
they are far from confined to early phases of the LSD sequence. 
These considerations led Grof to doubt that there is a vegetative 
phase per se. The most he is prepared to admit is that the drug has 
a tendency at the start to affect one specific part of the body: its 
perceptual and particularly its optical apparatus. Colors become 


exceptionally bright and beautiful, objects and persons are geome- 
trized, things vibrate and undulate, one hears music as if one were 
somehow inside it, and so on. This is as close as the drug comes to 
producing a direct somatic effect, but it is sufficient to warrant speak- 
ing of an introductory phase which Grof calls aesthetic. 

With this preliminary phase behind him the subject begins his 
psycholytic journey proper. Its first stage is occupied with material 
that is psychodynamic in the classical sense: Grof calls it the psy- 
chodynamic or Freudian stage. Experiences here are of a distinctly 
personal character. They involve regression into childhood and the 
reliving of traumatic infantile experiences in which Oedipal and 
Electra conflicts and ones relating to various libidinal zones are 
conspicuous; first and last, pretty much the full Freudian topogra- 
phy is traversed. The amount of unfinished business this layer of the 
self contains varies enormously; as would be expected, in disturbed 
subjects there is more than in normals. But the layer itself is present 
in everyone and must be worked through before the next stratum 
can be reached. "Worked through" again means essentially what 
jjsychiatry stipulates: a reliving not only in memory but in emotion 
of the traumatic episodes that have unconsciously crippled the 
patient's responses. Freud and Breuer's hypothesis that insufficient 
emotional and motor abreaction during early traumatic episodes pro- 
duces a "jamming" of affect that provides energy thereafter for 
neurotic symptoms is corroborated, for when patients in the course 
of a number of sessions enter into a problem area to the point of 
reliving it completely and integrating it into consciousness, the 
symptoms related to that area "never reappear" and the patient is 
freed to work on other symptoms. 

This much was in keeping with Grof's psychiatric orientation; it 
came as "laboratory proof of the basic premises of psychoanalysis" 
(p. 21). But there that model gave out. For, the experiences that fol- 
lowed, "no adequate explanation can be found within the framework 
of classical Freudian psychoanalysis" (pp. 24-25).^ 

6. On the limited range of the Freudian model I insert a supporting 
remark by Gordon Allport, in his latter years the dean of American per- 
sonality theorists. In his closing years at Harvard he would invite me to 
his seminars to register such light as Asian psychology might throw on 
human nature. One year I organized my remarks around India's "four 
psychologies," geared respectively to kama (pleasure), artha (wealth or 
worldly success), dharma (duty), and moksha (liberation). Allport's response 


Negatively the new stage was characterized by an absence of the 
individually and biographically determined material that had dom- 
inated the sessions theretofore. As a result, the experiential content 
of this second stage was more uniform for the population than was 
the content of the first. We have already cited Grof's contention that 
LSD is not so much an agent that produces specific effects as it is 
an amplifier of material that is already present, and in the first 
stage the enlarging process worked to magnify individual differences: 
"the sessions of patients belonging to various diagnoistic categories 
were characterized by an unusual inter- and also intra-individual 
variability" (U118). In the second stage the process was reversed. 
With the magnifying glass still in place, variations receded. "The 
content seemed to be strikingly similar in all of the subjects" (ibid.). 

This is already important, for the emergent similarity suggests 
that the subjects were entering a region of the mind which they 
shared in common, a region that underlay the differing scrawls their 
separate biographies had incised upon it. As to content, "the central 
focus and basic characteristics of the experience on this level are 
the problems related to physical pain and agony, dying and death, 
biological birth, aging, disease and decrepitude" (p. 25) — Buddha's 
First Noble Truth, Grof somewhere observes, and three of the 
Four Passing Sights that informed it. Inevitably, he continues, 

the shattering encounter with these critical aspects of human ex- 
istence and the deep realization of the fraility and impermanence 
of man as a biological creature, is accompanied by an agonizing 
existential crisis. The individual comes to realize through these 
experiences that no matter what he does in his life, he cannot 
escape the inevitable: he will have to leave this world bereft of 
everything that he has accumulated, achieved and has beeri' emo- 
tionally attached to. [ibid.] 

Among the phenomena of this second stage the theme of death 
and rebirth recurred so frequently that it sent Grof to a book he had 
heard of in his psychiatric training but had not studied, it having 
been written by a psychoanalytic renegade. Otto Rank. It bore the 

was: "In the West we have a detailed psychology of pleasure k la Freud's 
Pleasure Principle. McClelland's 'achievement motivation' has added to this 
a psychology of success. Respecting duty we have a nickel's worth of 
Freud's superego, and on the psychology of liberation — nothing." 


title The Trauma of Birth, and to use Grof's own word, he was 
"flabbergasted" to find how closely the second-stage psycholytic 
experiences conformed to it. He and his colleagues fell to calling 
the second stage perinatal or Rankian. 

During the weeks through which the stage extends, the patient's 
clinical condition worsens. The stage climaxes in a session in which 
the patient experiences the agony of dying and appears to himself 
actually to die. 

The subjects can spend hours in agonizing pain, with facial con- 
tortions, gasping for breath and discharging enormous amounts of 
muscular tension in various tremors, twitching, violent shaking 
and complex twisting movements. The color of the face can be 
dark purple or dead pale, and the pulse rate considerably ac- 
celerated. The body temperature usually oscillates in a wide range, 
sweating can be profuse, and nausea with projectile vomiting is a 
frequent occurrence, [ibid.] 

This death experience tends to be followed immediately by rebirth, 
an explosive ecstasy in which joy, freedom, and the promise of life 
of a new order are the dominant motifs. 

Outside the LSD sequence the new life showed itself in the pa- 
tients' marked clinical improvement. Within the sequence it intro- 
duced a third experiential landscape. When Grof's eyes became ac- 
climated to it, it appeared at first to be Jungian, Jung being the 
only major psychologist to have dealt seriously and relatively un- 
reductionistically with the visions that appeared. Later it seemed 
clearer to refer to the stage as transpersonal. 

Two features defined this third and final stage. First, its "most 
typical characteristics . . . were profound religious and mystical ex- 
periences" (U125). 

Everyone who experientially reached these levels developed con- 
vincing insights into the utmost relevance of spiritual and religious 
dimensions in the universal scheme of things. Even the most hard- 
core materialists, positivistically-oriented scientists, skeptics and 
cynics, uncompromising atheists and antireligious cruaders such as 
the Marxist philosophers, became suddenly interested in spiritual 
search after they confronted these levels in themselves, [p. 25] 

Grof speaks of levels in the plural here, for the "agonizing existential 
crisis" of the second stage is already religious in its way: death and 
rebirth are ultimates or none exist. The distinguishing feature of 


the third stage is not, strictly speaking, that it is religious but that 
it is (as Grof's words indicate) mystically religious: religious in a 
mode in which (a) the whole predominates over the part, and (b) 
within the whole evil is rescinded. This connects with the stage's 
other feature, its transpersonal aspect, which was so pronounced as 
to present itself in the end as the logical candidate for the name 
by which the stage should be designated. A trend toward trans- 
personal experiences, that is, ones occupied with things other than 
oneself, had already shown itself in stage two. Suffering, for ex- 
ample, which in the first stage presented itself in the form of recol- 
lected autobiographical traumas, had in the second stage taken the 
form of identifying with the suffering of others, usually groups of 
others: famine victims, prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, or 
mankind as a whole with its suffering symbolized archetypally by 
Christ on his cross, Tantalus exposed to eternal tortures in Hades, 
Sisyphus rolling his boulder incessantly, Ixion fixed on his wheel, 
or Prometheus chained to his rock. Likewise with death; already 
by stage two "the subjects felt that they were operating in a frame- 
work which was 'beyond individual death' " (U125). The third stage 
continues this outbound, transpersonal momentum. Now the pheno- 
mena with which the subject identifies are not restricted to mankind 
or even to living forms. They are cosmic, having to do with the 
elements and forces from which life proceeds. And the subject is less 
conscious of himself as separate from what he perceives. To a large 
extent the subject-object dichotomy is itself transcended. 

So much for description of the three stages. Now to interpretation 
and explanation. 

Grof was and is a psychiatrist. Psychiatry is the study and practice 
of ontogenetic explanation: it accounts for present syndromes in 
terms of antecedent experiences in the life history of the individual. 
Freud had mined these experiences as they occur in infancy and 
childhood, but Grof's work had led to regions Freud's map did not 
fit. Clearly, as psychiatrist, Grof had nowhere to turn for explanations 
save further in the same direction — further back. His very method- 
ology forced him to take seriously the possibility that experiences 
attending birth and even gestation could affect ensuing life 

Taking his cues from The Trauma of Birth while emending it in 
imp>ortant respects, Grof worked out a typology in which second- and 
third-stage LSD experiences are correlated with four distinct stages 


in the birth process: (a) a comfortable, intrauterine stage before the 
onset of labor; (b) an oppressive stage at labor's start when the 
fetus suffers the womb's contractions and has "no exit" inasmuch 
as the cervix has not opened; (c) the traumatic ensuing stage of 
labor during which the fetus is violently ejected through the birth 
canal; and (d) the freedom and release of birth itself. B and c 
seemed to Grof to vector the second or Rankian stage in the LSD 
sequence. In the reliving of b, the oppressiveness of the womb is 
generalized and the entire world, existence itself, is experienced as 
oppressive. C, when relived — the agony of labor and forced expul- 
sion through the birth canal — produces the experience of dying: 
traumatic ejection from the only life-giving context one has known. 
The rebirth experience in which the Rankian stage climaxes derives 
from reliving the experience of physical birth (d) and paves the way 
for the ensuing tfanspersonal stage. The sense of unshadowed bliss 
that dominates this final stage taps the earliest memories of all: 
before the womb grew crowded, when the fetus blended with its 
mother in mystic embrace (a). 

Even in bare outline Crof's hypothesis is plausible, and when 
fleshed out with the case histories and exp>eriential accounts that 
gave rise to it (material that is fascinating but which space precludes 
our entering here) it is doubly so. When subjects in their Rankian 
stage report first suffocation and then a violent, projective explosion 
in which not only blood but urine and feces are everywhere, one is 
persuaded that revived memories of the birth process play at least a 
part in triggering, shaping, and energizing later-stage LSD experi- 
ences. The question is: Are these the only causes at work? As we have 
noted, in the psychiatric model of man, once the Freudian domain 
has been exhausted there is nowhere to look for causes save where 
Rank did and Grof does: the ego, driven back to earlier and yet 
earlier libido positions, finally reenters the uterus. In the model of 
man that was sketched in Chapter 4, however, things are different. 
There the social and biological history of the organism is not the 
sole resource for explanation. "The soul that rises with us . . . 

Hath had elsewhere its setting. 

And Cometh from afar: 
Not in entire forgetfulness . . . 
But trailing clouds of glory do we come. . . . 


From whence? "From God," Wordsworth tells us, and we agree. 
When he adds in the line that follows: "Heaven lies about us in our 
infancy!" we again concur; as the celestial plane it envelops our 
souls not only in their infancy but always. More proximately, how- 
ever, it is the intermediate or psychic plane from which we stem. 
Whereas in the psychiatric perspective body is basic and explanations 
for mental occurrences are sought in body's endowments or history, 
in the primordial psychology body represents a kind of shaking 
out of what has condensed on the plane of mental phenomena that 
exist prior to body and are more real than body. We are back at 
the point Chapter 4 made in the context of dreams: it is not so 
much that we dream as that we are dreamed, if we may use this 
way of saying that the forces that come to the fore in our dreams 
pull the strings that govern our puppet existences. They do not 
govern them entirely — man is man, not manikin — but to say that 
they govern them is closer to the truth than is the epiphenomenal 
view in which body pays the piper and calls the tunes that dreams 
play out. 

Thus to Grof's finding that later stages in the LSD sequence 
conform to the stages of the birth process to a degree that warrants 
our saying that they are influenced by those stages, we add: in- 
fluenced only, not caused. To a greater degree the experiences of 
these stages put the subject in direct touch with the psychic and 
archetypal forces of which his life is distillation and product. Birth 
and death are not physical only. Everyone knows this, but it is less 
recognized that physical birth and death are relatively minor mani- 
festations of forces that are cosmic in blanketing the manifest world, 
the terrestrial and intermediate planes combined. Buddhism's pra- 
titya-samutpada (Formulation of Dependent Origination) saysr- pro- 
found things on this point, but all we shall say is that when a psychic 
quantum, germ of an ego, decides — out of ignorance, the Buddhists 
insert immediately — that it would be interesting to go it alone and 
have an independent career, in thereby distinguishing itself from 
the whole, and setting itself in ways against the whole, the ego 
shoulders certain consequences. Because it is finite, things will not 
always go its way: hence suffering in its manifold varieties. And the 
temporal side of the self's finitude ordains that it will die — piece- 
meal from the start as cells and minor dreams collapse, but eventually 
in its entirety. Energy is indestructible, however, so in some form 


there is rebirth. Confrontation of these principal truths in their 
transpersonal and trans-species scopes and intensity is the basic 
stuff of later-stage LSD experience. Biological memory enters, but 
conceivably with little more than a "me too": I too know the 
sequence from the time I was forged and delivered. 

Spelled out in greater detail, the primordial explanation of the 
sequence would run as follows. Accepting LSD as a "tool for the 
study of the structure of human personality; of its various facets 
and levels," we see it uncovering the successively deeper layers of 
the self which Grof's study brings to light. Grof's psychiatric explana- 
tion for why it does so is that "defense systems are considerably 
loosened, resistances decrease, and memory recall is facilitated to a 
great degree. Deep unconscious material emerges into consciousness 
and is experienced in a complex symbolic way" (U277). Our explana- 
tion shifts the accent. Only in the first stage are the defense systems 
that are loosened ones that the individual ego builds to screen out pain- 
ful memories. For the rest, what is loosened are structures that condi- 
tion the human mode of existence and separate it from modes that are 
higher: its corporeality and compliance with the spatio-temporal 
structures of the terrestrial plane. The same holds for the memory 
recall that LSD facilitates. In the first stage it is indeed memory that 
is activated as the subject relives, directly or in symbolic guise, the 
experiences that had befallen it, but in later stages what the psy- 
chiatrist continues to see as memory — an even earlier, intrauterine 
memory — the ontologist (short of invoking reincarnation) sees as 
discovery: the discovery of layers of selfhood that are present from 
conception but are normally obscured from view. Likewise with the 
"peculiar double orientation and double role of the subject" that 
Grof describes. "On the one hand," he writes, the subject "experi- 
ences full and complex age regression into the traumatic situations 
of childhood; on the other hand, he can assume alternately or even 
simultaneously the position corresponding to his real age" (U279). 
This oscillation characterizes the entire sequence, but only in the 
first stage is its not-immediate referent the past. In the later sessions, 
that which is not immediate is removed not in time but in space — 
psychological space, of course. It lies below the surface of the exterior 
self that is normally in view. 

The paradigm of the self that was sketched in Chapter 4 showed 
it to be composed of four parts: body, mind, soul, and Spirit. Work- 


ing with spatial imagery, we can visualize LSD as a seeing-eye probe 
that penetrates progressively toward the core of the subject's being. 
In the early sessions of the LSD sequence it moves through the 
subject's body in two steps. The first of these triggers peripheral 
somatic responses, most regularly ones relating to perception, to 
produce the aesthetic phase. The second moves into memory regions 
of the brain where. Wilder Penfield has posited, a complete cinemato- 
graphic record of everything the subject has experienced lies stored. 
That the events that were most important in the subject's formation 
are the ones that rush forward for attention stands to reason. We are 
into the first of the three main stages of the psycholytic sequence, 
the psychodynamic or Freudian stage. 

Passage from the Freudian to the Rankian stage occurs when the 
chemicals enter the region of the mind that outdistances the brain 
and swims in the medium of the psychic or intermediate plane. The 
phenomenological consequences could almost have been predicted: 

1. Biographical data — events that imprinted themselves on the 
subject's body, in this case the memory region of his brain — recede. 

2. Their place is taken by the "existentials" — conditioning struc- 
tures — of human existence in general. The grim affect of this stage 
could be due in part to memories of the ordeals of gestation and 
birth, but the torment, the sense of the wistfulness and pathos of a 
suffering humanity and indeed life in all its forms, derives mainly 
from the fact that the larger purview of the intermediate plane 
renders the limitations (dukkha) of the terrestrial plane more visible 
than when the subject is immersed in them. 

3. In the death and rebirth experience that climaxes this phase, 
Rankian factors could again cooperate without precluding causes 
that are more basic. The self had entered the intermediate, plane 
through the soul's assumption of — compression into — mind; as the 
Hindus say, the jiva assumed a subtle body. Now, in the reversal of 
this sequence, mind must be dissolved (die) for soul to be released 

The sense of release from the imprisoning structures of mind 
signals the fact that the probe has reached the level of soul. The 
phenomenological consequences are the ones Grof's subjects reported 
in the transpersonal stage, the main ones being the following: 

1. Whereas in the Rankian stage "there . . . was ... a very distinct 
polarity between very positive and very negative experience" (U125), 


experience is now predominantly beatific, with "melted ecstacy" per- 
haps its most-reported theme. Subjects "speak about mystic union, 
the fusion of the subjective with the objective world, identification 
with the universe, cosmic consciousness, the intuitive insight into the 
essence of being, the Buddhist nirvanam, the Vedic samadhi, the 
harmony of worlds and spheres, the approximation to God, etc." 

2. Experience is more abstract. At its peak it "is usually content- 
less and accompanied by visions of blinding light or beautiful colors 
(heavenly blue, gold, the rainbow spectrum, peacock feathers, etc.)" 
(ibid.) or is associated with space or sound. When its accouterments 
are more concrete they tend to be archetypal, with the archetypes 
seeming to be limitless in number. The celestial plane which the soul 
inhabits is, we recall, the plane of God and the archetypes. The 
distinction between the two, which if fleshed out would result in 
an ontology of five tiers instead of four (see footnote, page 51), is 
for purposes of simplification and symmetry being played down in 
the present book. 

3. The God who is almost invariably encountered is single and 
so far removed from anthropomorphism as to elicit, often, the pro- 
noun "it." This is in contrast to the gods of the Rankian stage which 
tend to be multiple, Olympian, and essentially enlarged titans. 

Beyond the soul lies only Spirit, an essence so ineffable that when 
the seeing eye strikes it, virtually all that can be reported is that 
it is "beyond" and "more than" all that had been encountered 

The correlations between the primordial anthropologfy and the 
psychedelic sequence can be diagramed as shown opposite: 

Up to this point we have noted Grofs empirical findings, and 
compared the way they fit into his Rank-extended psychiatric theories 
on the one hand and into the primordial understanding of man on 
the other. It remains to point out how the findings of seventeen 
years affected his own thinking. 

Engaged as he was in "the first mapping of completely unknown 
territories" (U267), he could not have fweseen where his inquiry 
would lead. What he found was that in "the most fascinating 
intellectual and spiritual adventure of my life [it] opened up new 
fantastic areas and forced me to break with the old systems and 
frameworks" (U250). The first change in his thinking has already 





been noted: the psycholytic sequences showed the birth trauma to 
have more dynamic consequences than Grof and his strictly Freudian 
associates had supposed. This change psychoanalysis could accommo- 
date, but not the one that followed. "I started my LSD research in 
1956 as a convinced and dedicated psychoanalyst," he writes. "In the 
light of everyday clinical observations in LSD sessions, I found this 
conception untenable" (p. 17). Basically, what proved to be unten- 
able was "the present . . . gloomy . . . image of man, which is to a 
great extent influenced by psychoanalysis" (U382).^ 

This picture of man, 

that of a social animal basically governed by blind and irrational 
instinctual forces . . . contradicts the experiences from the LSD 
sessions or at least appears superficial and limited. Most of the 
instinctual tendencies described by psychoanalysis (incestuous and 
murderous wishes, cannibalistic impulses, sadomasochistic inclina- 
tions, coprophilia, etc.) are very striking in the early LSD sessions; 
these observations are so common that they could almost be con- 

7. The flyleaf of Rank's book which served as almost the bible for Grof's 
work in one of its stages carries a quotation from Nietzsche: "The very 
best ... is, not to be bom. . . . The next best ... is ... to die soon." 


sidered experimental evidence for some of the basic assumptions 
of psychoanalysis. Most of them, however, appear in the sessions 
for only a limited period of time. This whole area can be tran- 
scended [whereupon] we are confronted with an image of man 
which is diametrically opposed to the previous one. Man in his 
innermost nature appears then as a being that is fundamentally in 
harmony with his environment and is governed by intrinsic high 
and universal values. [U382-83, deletions not indicated.] 

This change in anthropology has been the solid effect of psyche- 
delic evidence on Grof's thinking. In psychoanalytic terms, if Freud 
discovered the importance of infantile experience on ontogenetic 
development and Rank the importance of the experience of birth 
itself, Grof's discoveries carry this search for ever earlier etiologies — 
in psychoanalytic theory earlier = stronger — to its absolute limit: his 
optimistic view of man derives from discovering the influence and 
latent power of early-gestation memories; memories of the way things 
were when the womb was still uncongested and all was well. Beyond 
this revised anthropology, however, Grof has toyed with a changed 
ontology as well. Endowments that supplement his psychiatric com- 
petences have helped him here: he has an "ear" for metaphysics and 
an abiding ontological interest. These caused him to listen attentively 
from the start to his subjects' reports on the nature of reality, and in 
one of his recent papers, "LSD and the Cosmic Game: Outline of 
Psychedelic Cosmology and Ontology" (see footnote 3, page 156), he 
gives these reports full rein. Laying aside for the interval his role as 
research psychiatrist, which required seeing patients' experiences as 
shaped by if not projected from early formative experiences, in this 
paper Grof turns phenomenologist and allows their reports to stand 
in their own right. The view of reality that results is so uncannily 
like the one that has been outlined in this book that, interlacing 
paraphrases of passages in Grof's article with direct quotations from 
it, we present it here in summary. 

The ultimate source of existence is the Void, the supracosmic 
Silence, the uncreated and absolutely ineffable Supreme. 

The first possible formulation of this source is Universal Mind. 
Here, too, words fail, for Mind transcends the dichotomies, 
polarities, and paradoxes that harry the relative world. Insofar as 
description is attempted, the Vedantic ternary — Infinite Existence, 
Infinite Intelligence, Infinite Bliss — is as adequate as any. 


God is not limited to his foregoing, "abstract" modes. He can 
be encountered concretely, as the God of the Old and New Testa- 
ments, Buddha, Shiva, or in other modes. These modes do not, 
however, wear the mantle of ultimacy or provide answers that are 

The phenomenal worlds owe their existence to Universal Mind, 
which Mind does not itself become implicated in their categories. 
Man, together with the three-dimensional world he experiences, is 
but one of innumerable modes through which Mind experiences 
itself. The "heavy physicality" and seemingly objective finality of 
man's material world, its space-time grid and laws of nature that 
offer themselves as if they were sine qua nons of existence itself 
— all these are in fact highly provisional and relative. Under 
exceptional circumstances man can rise to a level of consciousness 
where he sees that taken together they constitute but one of 
inumerable sets of limiting constructs Universal Mind assumes. To 
saddle that Mind itself with these categories would be as ridiculous 
as trying to understand the human mind through the rules of 

Created entities tend progressively to lose contact with their 
original source and the awareness of their pristine identity with it. 
In the initial stage of this falling away, created entities maintain 
contact with their source and the separation is playful, relative, 
and obviously tentative. An image that would illustrate this stage 
is that of waves on the ocean. From a certain point of view they 
are individual entities; we cap. speak of a large, fast, green, and 
foamy wave, for example. At the same time it is transparently 
evident that in spite of its relative individuation the wave is part 
of the ocean. 

At the next stage created entities assume a partial independence 
and we can observe the beginnings of "cosmic screenwork." Here 
unity with the source can be temporarily forgotten in the way 
an actor on stage can virtually forget his own identity while he 
identifies with the character he portrays. 

Continuation of the process of partitioning results in a situation 
in which individuation is permanently and for all practical pur- 
poses complete, and only occasionally do intimations of the 
original wholeness resurface. This can be illustrated by the rela- 
tionship between cells of a body, organs, and the body as a 
whole. Cells are separate entities but function as parts of organs. 
The latter have even more independence, but they too play out 
their roles in the complete organism. Individuation and participa- 
tion are dialectically combined. Complex biochemical interactions 


bridge provisional boundaries to ensure the functioning of the 
organism as a whole. 

In the final stage the separation is practically complete. Liaison 
with the source is lost and the original identity completely for- 
gotten. The "screen" is now all but impermeable; radical qualita- 
tive change is required for the original unity to be restored. Symbol 
of this might be a snowflake, crystallized from water that has 
evaporated from the ocean. It bears little outward similarity to 
its source and must undergo a change in structure if reunion is to 

Human beings who manage to effect the change just referred 
to find thereafter that life's polarities paradoxically both do 
and do not exist. This holds for such contraries as spirit/matter, 
good/evil, stability/motion, heaven/hell, beauty/ugliness, agony/ 
ecstasy, etc. In the last analysis there is no difference between 
subject and object, observer and observed, experiencer and experi- 
enced, creator and creation. 

In the early years of psychoanalysis when hostility was shown to 
its reports and theories on account of their astonishing novelty, and 
they were dismissed as products of their authors' perverted imagina- 
tions, Freud used to hold up against this objection the argument 
that no human brain could have invented such facts and connections 
had they not been persistently forced on it by a series of converging 
and interlocking observations. Grof might have argued equally: to 
wit, that the "psychedelic cosmology and ontology" that his patients 
came up with is as uninventable as Freud's own system. In fact, 
however, he does not do so. In the manner of a good phenomenol- 
ogist he lets the picture speak for itself, neither belittling it by 
referring it back to causes that in purporting to explain it would 
explain it away, nor arguing that it is true. As phenomenologists 
themselves would say, he "brackets" his own judgment regarding 
the truth question and contents himself with- reporting what his 
patients said about it. 

The idea that the "three-dimensional world" is only one of 
many experiential worlds created by the Universal Mind . . . 
appeared to them much more logical than the opposite alternative 
that is so frequently taken for granted, namely, that the material 
world has objective reality of its own and that the human con- 
sciousness and the concept of God are merely products of highly 
organized matter, the human brain. When closely analyzed the 


latter concept presents at least as many incongruences, paradoxes 
and absurdities as the described concept of the Universal Mind. 
The problems of finity versus infinity of time and space; the 
enigma of the origin of matter, energy and space; and the mystery 
of the prime impulse appear to be so overwhelming and defeating 
that one seriously questions why this approach should be given 
priority in our thinking, [p. 11] 


aborigine, 96, 116 
Absolute, 25, 85, 147 
Abu Bakr Siraj Ed-Din. 97n 
Addison, Joseph, 147n 
Adler, Alfred, 76 

affluent society: stone age as the 

original, 125n 
ahamkara, 90 
Ahman al-Alawi, 56n 
Akka pygmy, 54n 
Alexander, Samuel, 128 
al-Hallaj, Mansur, 87 
All and Ex/ery thing, 121 
Allah, 80, 97: names of, 54 
Allport, Gordon, 160 
All-Possibility: the Infinite as, 25 
Alvars, 82 

ambiguity as a virtue in symbolism 

and language, 13-14 
anatta, 52 

angels, angeology, 2n, 18, 105 

Angkor Wat, 23 

Angoff, Allan, 73n 

anthropologists. 111 

anthropology: Levi-Strauss on, 126; 
primordial, ch. 4, 155, 168 

anthropomorphism: appropriate- , 
ness of, 51ff. 80; dangers in, 53, 79 

antimatter, 115, 116 

Aquinas, St. Thomas, 38, 78, 105 

archaic (tribal, pre-civilized) out- 
look, 3, 17; as included in the 
primordial tradition, 54 

archetypes, 39-41, 48, 50, 51n, 139, 
168; as God's "ideas", attributes, 
or first creations, 51n; as psychoid, 
40; archetypal forces, 165 

arketupon, 39 

Aristotle, 5, 13n. 15, 26, 64, 68, 75n, 

Arnold, Matthew, 99 
artificial intelligence, 136f 
Asia, 23. 110, 122: South, 152 
askesis, 114 

astral bodies, astral projection, 39 

astronomy. If, 29 

Atman, 86. 87, 89, 103: identical 

with Brahman, 111 
Attila, 96 

Augustine. St., 16n, 20, 34, 110. 118, 

151n. 153 
Auschwitz, 96 
Avogadro's number, 101 
axis mundi, 23 

Bacon, Francis, 5 

bardos, 39, 47 

Bayazid, 114 

beatific vision, 144 

Beatrice. 78, 85 

Becker, Carl, 7 

Becker, Ernest, 151n 

Beckmann, Max, 65 

being, 24, 25, 28, 57, 58, 153: as 

intrinsically good, 77; as object of 

the soul's desire, 76f; as the 

ontological measure, 3 
Being, 28, 55, 84, 85, 90, 92, 144, 152 
Bellarmine. St., 118 
Bergson, Henri, 120, 124: and 

parapsychology, 69 
Bethell, Tom, 134 
Beyond Freedom and Dignity, 12 


INDEX / 175 

Bhagavad-Gita, 31 
Bharati, Agehananda, 72n 
biology, biologists. 15. 120. 127. 137. 

Black Elk. 30 
black holes. 49, 122n 
Blaisdell Institute, Journal of, 

Blake. William. 31. 115 
Bloch. Ernst. 120 
Block. Ned. 20n 

body. 63. 143f. 165. 169: resurrected. 

73; subtle (etheric. astral) . 39. 

47. 73, 167 
Bohm. David. 17. 102. 103 
Bohme. Jakob. 110 
Boler. Father Martin. 53n 
Brahma. 49 

Brahman. 87. 89. 103. Ill 
brain: distinguished from mind. 

63f; hemispheres function 

differently. 65f 
Breuer. 6., 160 
Brown. Joseph Epes. 54n 
Buber. Martin. 28 
Buddha. 30. 38n. 60. 92. 100. 110. 

148. 152. 161. 171: Maitreya. 118; 

Pratyeka. 148 
Buddha-nature. 87 
Buddhism. 30, 38n, 55. 88n. 161. 165. 

168: Ch'an (Zen). 87. 110. 113; 

Mahayana. 148; Shin. 113 
Bultman. Rudolf. 20 
Burckhardt. Titus. 4 In. 131. 132n. 


Bury. J.B.. 120 
Butterfield. Herbert. 1 

£apek. Mili£. 106n. 11 In 
Capra. Fritjof. Il7n 
causes, final: vs. efficient. 15; as 
excluded from science. 15. 137 
celestial. See planes 
celestial ray. 29 

Chance and Necessity, 15. 130n 

China. 31. 121. 155 

Chomsky. Noam. 126 

Christ. 56. 77n. 83f. 108. 110. 149: 
two natures of. paralleled in 
brain's two hemispheres. 66 

Christian. Christianity. 1. 22. 33. 83. 
96. 99. 107. 133. 148 

Chuang Tzu, 32. 33 
Collier, John. 35 
Communist Manifesto, 153 
complements: union of. 26 
Confucius. Confucianism. 12. 146. 
149. 150 

control: as a goal of science. 10 
Conze. Edward. 38n. 103n 
Coomaraswamy. Ananda K.. 54n. 

Corbin, Henry, 85n 
counter-intuitive: nature as. 104f. 

Creative Evolution. 120 
Crest-Jewel of Discrimination, 

cross: symbolism of, ch. 2; three- 
dimensional, ch. 2 
Czechoslovakia. 156 

Dalai Lama, I22f 
Dante. 3. 78, 79, 85. 152 
Darwin. 124. 129. 137f 
darwinism. ch. 6. passim 
Das Prinzip Hoffnung, 120 
death: experienced under LSD. 

161-62; survival of bodily. 69. 

demonic. 43n, 43-46 
demythologizing. 20 
Dennett. D. C. I35ff 
dependent origination: doctrine of. 

in Buddhism. 165 
Deperet. Charles. 131n 
desert fathers. 148 
destiny. 93 

devolution. 141 -r 
Dewar. Douglas, 131. 132n 
dhikr. 100 

Diamond Sutra, 103n. 110 

Dickinson. Emily. 19 

dimensions vs. levels as spatial met- 
aphors. 2 If 

Dionysius the Areopagite. 19. 54n. 
84. 107. 109n. 111. 153 

Dirac. Paul. 115 

discamates. 72 

Divine Comedy, 3 

Divine Names and the Mystical The- 
ology, 19. 54n. 108n. 109n. 153 
Dostoevsky. Fyodor. 71 
Doyle. Sir Arthur Conan. 73 

176 / INDEX 

dream, dreams, dreaming 70f, 165: 
correlated with erections, 71; 
correlated with intermediate 
plane, 73; day-, 72; life as, 100 

dukkha, 167 

Dyson, Freeman, 142 

Eastern Orthodoxy, 23, 56 
Eaton, Gai, 35n. 42n, 94n, 149n 
Eccles, Sir John, 65n 
Eckhart, Meister, 30n, 87, 112 
Eden, Murray, 132n 
Edwards, Mrs. Jonathan, 83 
Einstein, Albert, 122n 
Eisley, Loren, 132n 
Eleusinian mysteries, 155 
Eliade, Mircea, 3, 17. 54n 
Eliatic stranger, in Sophist, 51 
Eliot, T. S., 33, 145 
Ellsberg, Daniel, 153 
emanation: as explanation for 

origin of species, 139ff 
Emerald Tablets of Hermes 

Trismegistus, 62 
emergence, 127f 
Engels, Friedrich, 153 
Enneads, 85 
'en-sof, 55 

ens perfectissimum, 34, 107 
"entropology": anthropology as, 

epiphenominalism, 165 
ESP, 39 

etiology, psychoanalytic, 163, 170 
Euclid, 105 

European: art, I48n; mistake 

regarding explanation, 50n 
evolution, ch. 6: as a support for 

hope, 131; critique of, 126-142; 

emergent, 127f; micro- vs. mega-, 

existentialism, 7 
Exorcist, 43; exorcism, 42-46 
"experience" as a vacuous term, 11 If 

Feynman, Richard, 142 
Finkelstein, David, 106 
Flaws in the Theory of Evolution, 

forgiveness, 144 

forms, Platonic, 13n, 40, 51 

Francis. St., 110 

Freud, Sigmund, 6n. 41, 76, 129, 158, 
160, 161n, 163, 172; pessimism of. 
15 In; freudian stage in LSD 
sequences, 160, 167; freudianism, 
43n, 164, 169 

Friedlander, Paul. 38 

futurists, futurism. 145 

Galileo, Galilei, 15 
Garrett, Eileen, 73 
Gentle Tasaday, 144n 
Ghazali, 86n 

God, 6, 19, 30n. 33. 48, 49, 53, 79. 
lllf, 119, 131, 139, 140, 144. 155, 
168; anthropomorphic, 52, 79. 80, 
114, 139; as object of the soul's 
love, 79; death of, 7, 80; kingdom 
of. 118; personal, 49ff, 79ff, 171; 
not merely a symbol, 68, 79; 
transpersonal, 54ff, 80, 87ff. 168 

Godhead, 53, 86, 90 

Goullart, Peter, 43 

grace: works vs., 113, 114 

Gray, Sir James, 134f, 139 

Great Chain of Being, 4, 5 

Gregory of Nyssa, 101 

Grof, Stanislav, Appendix, passim 

Gu6non, R6ne, 4, 23, 33, 73 

Gurdjieff, G., 121. 129 

hadith, 150 

Hakuin, 110 

Haldane, J. S., 106 

Hara Akegaras, 88n 

heaven, heavens, 73, 165 

Heidegger, Martin, lOn, 47n, 59n 

Heilbroner, Robert, 124 

hell, 46n, 73, 144 

hereafter. See death, survival of 

Hermes Trismegistus, 62 

hermetic, 30 

hier, as root of "hierarchy," 2 
hierarchical cosmology: scientific vs. 

traditional, 1-5 
Hindu, Hinduism, Hindus, 18, 49, 

54, 167 
Hitler, 86 
Hobbes, Thomas, 5 
Holton, Gerald. 15n 
Honest to God. 19 
hope, ch. 6: as indispensable, 118; 

as kingpin of the modem mind. 

INDEX / 177 

hope: as kingpin (cont'd.) 

120; evolution as prop for, 131, 
139; horizontal (collective, 
historical), 119; Kazantzakis on, 
124; Sartre on, 124; vertical 
(individual) , 118f 

horror religiosus, 53 

Hoyle. Fred, 101 n, 123n. 128 

Hui-neng, 110 

Hull, W. F., 135 

Human Personality and Its Survival 

of Bodily Death, 69 
Human Prospect, 124 
humanistic, 4, 98: psychology, 48n 
Huxley, Aldous, 115 

/ Have Seen the Future and It 

Doesn't Work, 124 
Ibn 'Arabi, 85 
Idea of Progress, 120 
Idea of the Good, Plato's, 51, 79 
Ignatius of Antioch, 53n 
Ignatius, Loyola, 110 
India, 70, 103; Alvars of, 82 
Indian, Indians, 23, 41. 100. 

American: see Native Americans 
Indra, 103 
Indra's net, 141 
indriyas, 39 

ineffable: mystic vision as, 11 Of 
Inferno, 152 

infinite: dimensions of space, 102f; 
levels of nature, 102f; scientific 
"infinite" not truly such, 102n 

Infinite, In-finite, 20, 25, 28, 30n, 37, 
42, 49, 61, 78, 114, 144, 147, 155; as 
God's ultimate nature, 54fF, 87fF; 
as the inescapable notion, 53n; as 
single, 102n; dangers in imaging, 
57n; not literally describable, 

insanity, 42 

instruments: in science, 114; in 

religion, 114f 
intermediate. See planes 
Isaiah, 110 

Islam, 46n, 54n, 80, 118f, 148 
isomorphism of microcosm/macro- 

cosm, man and the cosmos, 20f, 

29, 60, 62, 129, 142 
Izutsu, Toshihiko, 90n 

Jains, 87 

James, William, 60, 69, 80, 81n, 112, 

113; and parapsychology, 69 
jihad, 149 
jiva, 167 
jnana yogin, 143 
John, St. 110 
John of the Cross, 85 
Jones, Ernest, 6n 

joy: as aspect of mystic vision. 111 
Judaism, 18, 54n, 148; the Infinite 
in, 55 

Jung, Carl, 40, 41, 48, 54, 158, 162; 
critique of, 40nf 

Kabbalah, 28, 30, 148 
kali yuga, 36 

Kant, Immanuel: and parapsychol- 
ogy, 69 
Kazantzakis, Nikos, 124 
kensho, 110, 113 
Kepler, Thomas, 15 
Koestler, Arthur, 47, 69 
Koran, 70, 97, 115, 144 
Krippner, Stanley, 48n 
Kuhn, Thomas, 134 
Kulasekhara Alvar, 82 

labor-oratory: "laboratory" as 

deriving from, 117 
Lachterman, David, x 
language, 107, 109; related to brain's 

left hemisphere, 65f 
law of effect, 135f 
L'Erreur Spirite, 73 
Les titats Multiples de I'Etre, 4 
levels of reality, 61, 62, Ch. 3: as^five 

rather than four, 51n, 168. See 


levels of selfhood, 62, ch. 4: LSD as 

revealing, 158fF, 166-69 
L^vi-Strauss, Claude, 3, 117, 125f 
Lewis, C. S., 99 

light: as wave and particle, 105; 

God as, 56f 
lila, 140 

Lin Chi, 87, 88, 90 

Lings, Martin, 30n, 56n, 91n, 147n, 

Ling-yun, 110 
Lives of a Cell, 14n 
logic: ontological, 50 

178 / INDEX 

Looking Back on Progress, 142n 

love: 76ff; as bridge to the Infinite, 
86f, 92; God's, of man, 83; man's, 
of God, 82; identity of human and 
divine, 84f; of the world, 153; 
love-loop, 84, 116 

Lovejoy, Arthur, 4, 5, 17 

LSD, Appendix, passim 

Luther, Martin, 81 

magic, 42; maya as cognate to, 100 
man, ch. 4: as infinite and not, 87; 

isomorphism with the cosmos, 20f, 

29, 60, 62, 129. See levels of 

mandala, 23 
March, Robert, 106n 
Marcuse, Herbert, 12 
Marx, Karl, 76, 120, 129; Marxism, 

41, 153 
Massachusetts Institute of 

Technology, lln, 116n, 122n, 132n 
materialism, 65n, 67; science's 

avoidance of question-begging as 

leading to, 138 
mathematical point, 27, 29, 32, 151 
mathematics, 58, 104, 109, 110 
matter, 42, 151: matter/energy, 6, 

14, 37 
materialism, 137 
Mauriac, Francis, 107 
maya, 37: cognate to magic, 100 
McClelland, David, 161n 
McDougall, William, 76 
Mead, George Herbert, 74 
meaning: theoretical vs. existential, 

partial vs. wholistic, 15 
measurement: as essential in science 

but inapplicable to quality, 16-17 
mechanism: on mind/body identity, 


Medawar, P. B., 133 
Merrell- Wolff, Franklin, 70n 
metaphysics, 25, 139, ch. 3; LSD 

and, 170-73; scientism as faulty, 


Metz, Johannes, 120 
Meyers, F. W. H., 69 
Michon, Jean-Louis, 35n 
microcosm/macrocosm isomorphism. 

See isomorphism 
middle ages, 5, 148 

Mill, John Stuart, 3 

Millay, Edna St. Vincent, 82n 

mind, 63ff, 143f, 167, 169; distinct 
from brain, 63; dream experience 
of, 70f ; working exjjerience of, 69f ; 
world, 48 

mind: universal, l70ff 

miracles, 47n 

modem world (mind, outlook) , 17, 
34f; definition of, 6; hope as king- 
pin of, 120; as founded on "pre- 
volution," 122; as demeaning the 
human potential, 152 

moksha, 160n 

Moltmann, Jiirgen, 120, 145 

Monastery of Jade Mountain, 43 

Monod, Jacques, 15, 130 

Montesquieu, 52 

Morgan, Lloyd, 128 

Mount Savior Monastery, 53n 

Mu Mon Kan, 31 

Muhammad, 114, 149, 150 

Mumford, Lewis, 16 

Myers, F.W.H., 69 

Mystery of the Mind, 64 

mystic, 110, 120, 148 

mystic vision, llOf: as noetic rather 

than affective, 111-12; as 

transitory, 113 
mystical experience: and LSD, 162. 


mystics, mysticism, 49, 58n; 

Rhineland, 148 
myths, 114, 126, 141n 

nambutsu, 113 
Nance, John, 144n 
Native Americans, 35, 54n 
natural selection, I32n, 137; as 

substitute for God, 131 
nature: Greeks' broader view of, 47, 

Nazi, 96 

Neanderthal, 125, 141 
Needleman, Jacob, 36n, llSn, 13 In 
neolithic, 125 

neurophysiology: on mind/brain 

distinction, 64ff 
New Scientist, 48n, 69 
neophilia, 145 
Newton, Isaac, 5, 142 
Nicholas of Cusa, I08n 

INDEX / 179 

Nietzsche, Frederich, lOn, 75 
Nikhilananda, Swami, 89 
Nirguna Brahman, 55 
nirvana, 31, 55, 111 
noetic: mystic vision as, 112 
Northboume, Lord, 53n, 142n 
nous, 5 In 

number: as the language of science, 
6, 10, 58, 104; as precise, 12f 

objective knowledge, objectivity, 10, 

O'Brien, Elmer, 58n 
Ojibways, 35n 

one: metaphysical meaning of, 58n 
One -Dimensional Man, 12 
ontic sensibility, 50 
ontological levels. See levels 
Oppenheimer, Robert, 107, 108, 109 
opposites, resolution of, 26 
optimism, 152; deriving from LSD 

research, 169f 
optimistic, traditions as, 152 
original, double meaning of, 146 
Original, the great, 146 

Palamas, St. Gregory, 60, 129 

paleolithic, 125n 

Pallis, Marco, 113n 

paradise, 108, 153 

paradox, 56n, 172; in mysticism, 

108f; in science, 107 
parapsychology, 47, 69 
Pascal, Blaise, 33 
Patmos, 110 

Paul, St., 22, 73, 77n, 81, 101. See 

Penfield, Wilder, 64, 68, 167 

perennial philosophy, x 

Perry, Whitall, x 

Personal Knowledge, 63n, 126f 

pessimism: in psychoanalytic theory, 
151n, 169; traditions charged with, 
151; traditions cleared of, 151f 

petitio, 138 

Petitpierre, Francois, 42n 
Phaedrus, 75n, 85 
Phenomenon of Man, 121, 133 
Philokalia, 109 

philosophy, 4, 18, 67, 132n; modem 
vs. traditional, 58nf; Western 
mistake in, 50n 

physics, 117n, 142 

pivot, unwobbling, 32 

planes of existence or reality: 
celestial, 42, 48ff, 61, 86, 87, 165, 
168; intermediate (animic, 
psychic), 38ff, 42, 48, 49, 50, 61, 
72, 73, 164, 167; terrestrial 
(human), 37f, 42, 47, 48, 49, 61, 
116, 139, 142, 150, 165. See levels 

Plato, 4, 5, 13n, 36, 38, 40, 51, 75n, 
79, 80, 107n 

Plotinus, 48, 51, 58n, 85 

Plzak, Richard F., 116n 

pneumatology, 60 

Po-Chang, 110 

point. See mathematical 

Polanyi, Michael, 63n, 65, 126f 

Pollard, William, 130n 

Polten, Eric, 65n 

Popper, Karl, 8 

possession, demonic, 42-46 

Prague, 156, 158f 

Prajapati, 103 

pratitya-samutpada, 165 

precision as virtue and limitation, 

prediction: as sought in science, 10 
"prevolution," 121f 
Proclus, 5 

progress, ch. 6, passim 
Protestant, 120 
psychedelic "theophanies": 

ambiguity of, 155 
psychedelics. Appendix, passim: as 

mind-ampHBers, 156n, 157, 161; 

psychedelic vs. psycholytic, 157 
psychiatry as ontogenetic 

explanation, 163, 170 
psychoanalytic theory: pessimism of, 

169; pessimism contradicted by 

LSD, 169f 
psychoid: archetypes as, 40 
psychokinesis, 41 
psychology: as limited, 60; 

Association for Humanistic, 48n; 

cognitive, 135; depth, 47; not 

question-begging, 137; para-, 47; 

primordial, 165; Western, 161n 
psycholytic, 157; vs. psychedelic, 157 
purposes (final causes) : as eluding 

science, 15; non-question-begging 

accounts of, 137 

180 / INDEX 

pygmy, 54n 

Pythagoras, Pythagorean, 12 

qualities: primary vs. secondary, 15 

quality: as eluding measurement, 16, 
102; as eluding science, 16f; as the 
ontological measure, 2f, 101 

quantity: as determiner of the levels 
in science, 2; science's 
preoccupation with, lOf, 104 

quantum mechanics, 104, 107, 110; 
quantum physics, 1 16 

question-begging, 135, 137ff 

Quine, Willard, 7 

Ramakrishna, 89 

Rampa, Lobsang, 72n 

Ramsey, Frank, 58n 

Rank, Otto, 161, 168 

Rankian stage in LSD therapy, 162, 

164, 167, 168, 170 
reality (being) : as the ontological 

measure, 3; levels of, ch. 3 
Realms of the Human Unconscious: 

Observations from LSD Research, 


reductionism, 41, 128 
relativity theory, 104 
religion, 4, 6; developments in, 148; 

scientism as, I6f 
Religion in the Modern World, 53n 
Religions of Man, ix 
revealed texts, 114 
revelation, 148 
Rhineland mystics, 148 
Roberts, Jane, 72n 
Robinson, John, 19, 20 
Rolt, C. E., 19, 54n 
Rome, 96 

Roots of Coincidence, 47, 69 
Ross, W. D., 5n 
Rostand, Jean, I33f 
Roszak, Theodore, lln 
Rumi, Jalal ad-Din, 77n 
Ruskin, John, 147n 
Russell, Bertrand, 14 
Rutherford, Ernest, 112 
Ruysbroeck, 85, 108 

sacred, 3, 4n, 35 

Sacred and the Profane, 3 

Sahlins, Marshall, 125n ^ 

samsara, 31, 111 

Sartre, Jean-Paul, 124 

sat, chit, ananda as God's attributes 

(Hinduism) , 3, 55, 152 
satori, 31, 110 
Saul, 56, 110 
Savage Mind, 117 
scala naturae, 5 
Schilling, Harold, 102n, UOn 
scholasticism, 148 
Schramm, David, 29n 
Schuldenfrei, Richard, 7n 
Schuon, Frithjof, 49n, 50n, 66, 86, 

lOOn, 144n 
science, chs. 1, 5, 6, passim; as 

occasioning historical hope, 119; 

as symbol, ch. 5; as the 

quantifiable, lOf, 17, 100, 104; 

elegance of, lOln; nature of, 9-12; 

postmodern, 106. Scientism as 

misreading of,: see scientism. 
science fiction: as kin to religion, 22 
scientific enterprise: as distinct from 

scientific method, 11 
scientific method: impossibility of 

expanding, 11; limitations 

inherent in, 14-17; nature of, 


scientific world view, ch. 1, passim; 

limitations of, 7f, 14-16; 

psychedelic evidence as 

challenging, 170-73 
scientism, 16, 96-97; as a religion, 

16f; as occasioning historical 

hope, 120 
scientists: dedication of, 63n, 112 
secondary qualities, 104 
secular, 98 
Seng-ts'an, 31 

sense: data, 14; deception, 98, 106 
senses, limkations of, 98, 104, lOti 
sentimentality as consequence of 

exclusive attention to sentiments 

or feelings, 112 
Seth, 72n 

Shah, Indries, 95n 
shaman, shamanism, 39 
Shankara, 52, 102 
Shapley, Harlow, I23n 
shekinah, 79 

Sherrington, Sir Charles: 64, 67, 68 
Shi'ites, 148 

INDEX / 181 

shruti, 115 
Shute, Evan. 131 
siddhis, 41, 123n 
Simon, Herbert, 137 
simple: as a metaphysical predicate, 

sin: broadest meaning of, 66 
Skinner, B. F., 12, 15, 136 
Smith. Cyril, 117 

Smith, Eleanor Kendra, dedication 

smriti, 115 

Snyder, Gary, 125n 

society: present book's silence on, 

149; traditions on, 149f 
Society for the Philosophy of 

Psychology, 135 
socio-political action, 149 
Socrates, 3 
soma, 155 

Song of Solomon, 148 
Sophist, 51 
Sophocles, 99 

soul, 73. 74ff, 144, 151, 164f, 167, 
169; as locus of individuality. 74; 
as tropic toward being, 76, 78; 
pneumatology as the science of. 60 

space. 6, ch. 2, passim, 37. 38. 173; 
curved, 6. 30. 105f. Ill; in the 
intermediate plane. 39. prior to 
time. 65; relativity of, 30. 116; 
symbolism of. ch. 2 

Spinoza. 55 

Spirit, 20. 87ff. 114. 147. 151. 168. 

169; as the Infinite. 87. 144 
spiritualism. 73 

Spring Grove State Hospital. 156 
Stace. W. T., 108 
Starbuck. E. D.. 81 
steady-state theory, 128n. 128 
Steiner. George. 126 
Steinheim man. 141 
Stone Age Economics, 125n 
Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 

Studies in Comparative Religion, 

35n. 36n. 42n. 54n 
sublime, as deriving from 

"sub-limen." 117n 
Sufi. 88. 115: tales. 82. 94. 99 
Sufism. 47 

Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century 

suksma-sarira. 39 
summum bonum. 15. 102 
Sunnis. 148 
superspace. 101. 116 
sunyata. 55 
Suzuki. Daisetz. 113n 
Sword of Gnosis, 36n, 41n. 113n. 

symbol. 79. 171; personal God is 
and is not. 52f. 86n; science as. 
ch. 5 

symbolism. 79. 89; as the science of 
relationships between levels of 
reality. 86. 97; in the Koran. 115; 
of space, ch. 2 

Symbolism of the Cross, 23 

symbols vs. signs. 12f 

Symposium, 79 

Tacit Dimension, 65 
"Tale of the Sands." 94f 
Tantra. 155 

Tao. 32: as the Infinite. 55 
Tao Te Ching, 27. 32 
Taoism. 31. 43, 55 
Tasaday, Gentle, 144n 
tat tvam asi, 111 
technology. 7: as occasioning 

historical hope. 1 19; born of art 

and religioQ. 117 
Teilhard de Chardin. Pierre, 121. 

132. 142f 
teleology: rejected by science. 15 
ten thousand things. 31 
terrestrial. See planes 
Te-shan. 110 

theism: as limited. 52; as natural. 

51; as true. 52 
theology. 7. 20 
Theology of Hope, 120 
Thomas. Lewis. 14n. 126 
Thorndike. E. L.. 135 
Tibet. Tibetans. 23. 123n 
Tibetan Book of the Dead, 47 
time. 6. 25, 37, 57n. 104; as 

subsequent to space. 65; in the 

intermediate plane. 47f 
timelessncss. 57n. 146 
to metaxy (intermediate plane. 

Greek). 38 
Tobias, Phillip. 125 
Tractatus, 15n, 59n 

182 / INDEX 

traditio, 146 

Transformist Illusion, 131 
transpersonal: Journal of. 

Psychology, 156n; stage in LSD 

sequence, 162f 
Trauma of Birth, 162, 16S 
trikaya, 38n 
Tristes Tropiques, 126 
truth: as not needing us, 58; as 

single, ix, 18; elusiveness of, 41; 

objective, 7, 10; Modem West 

might realign with, x, 147; 

subjective, 7 

unanimity, the human, 18 
unity: as disclosed in science and 

the mystic vision. 111 
universals, 50 

unknowing, 107, 111; Cloud of, 144. 

See: ineffable 
Unmoved Mover, 78 
Upanishads, 148; Katha, 57n; 

Maitrayana, 60; Svetasvatara, 30, 

32n, 145n; Taittiriya, 102 
Utopia, 121; Utopian writing 

discontinued in the 20th century, 


vacuum: not empty, 102 
values: as eluding science, 14; 

descriptive vs. normative, 14f; 

instrumental vs. intrinsic, 14f 
Vedanta, 55, 170: advaita, 58n 
Vedas, 103; Vedic, 147, 168 
Virgin Mother, 148 
virtue: as synonym for quality or 

being, 2nf 

Vishnu, 82 

vitalism, 127; as unscientific. 15 
Vivekananda, 114 
void (sunyata), 170 

Walden Two, 124n 

Wasson, R. Gordon, 155n 

Weinberg, Steven, lln 

western: civilization, x, 4. lOn; man, 

122; psychology, 161n; search for 

objective knowledge, 126; 

westerner, 132. See European 
What Is Sufisni) 30n 
Wheeler, John, 102, 103, 122 
Whitehead, Alfred North, lln 
Wiener, Norbert, 8 
Wiesel, Elie, 146 
Wigner, Eugene, 12 
Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 15n, 58n, 59n 
Wordsworth, William, 165 
world: necessarily imperfect, 152f; 

as transparent to perfection, 153; 

-view, 146 
worlds: macro-, meso-, micro-, 2, 4, 


wu wei, 32, 149 

Xenophanes, 52 

YHVH, 54n 
yin-yang, 26 
yugas, 141 

Zarathustra, 46 
Zen. See Buddhism 
Zen Notes, 88n 
Zimmer, Heinrich, 152 


This cicttsic conpanioii to 
file WoHd^M Religions articulafes 
Hie remarkable wiity underlying all 
the great religious traditions. 


"Smith's style reflects his subject; he is by turns a 
mystic sage, a poet, and above all a philosopher. 
— Publishers Weekly 

"The single best introduction to religion ever written. 
, . . The book is monumental." — Re-Vision 

"A brilliant and creative piece of work." 
— NIELS NIELSEN, Rice University 

"A wonderful book." — DANIEL GOLEMAN 

"By far the best book on 'the primordial tradition' 
that I know. " — A. HILARY ARMSTRONG, translator 
of The Enneads 

"\ am overwhelmed by the accomplishment, 
. . . Truly extraordinary." — KEN WILBER 

"Beautifully written. The joy is that I find it so relevant 
in so many places, from 'Introduction to Religion' to 
advanced courses in 'Philosophy of Religion.' " 
— RICHARD GELWICK, Stephens College 

HUSTON SMITH, author of JUe World's Religions 
(more than 2 million copies sold), teaches at the University of 
California, Berkeley. 


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